Color & Control:

How to foster intersectionality and inclusion in youngsters

Canada is a nation that prides itself on our progressive nature and willingness to listen to all sides of any discussion. A country that has been in the top 15 freest countries on earth and rated 2nd best country to live in for 2023, we even ranked 1st in 2021, but those achievements don’t exclude us from having social problems with intersectionality and diversity.

How do we teach our children and youth to make the spaces we occupy safe, discrimination-free and inclusive for everyone? It’s not a simple process but it starts during early years with talking about how each student and every person encompasses multiple identities which intersect to create different experiences. It involves teaching practices that make room for all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class, marital status, age, religion, body size and ability. Interactions may be visible or invisible and include contexts such as colour prejudice, housing status, beauty bias, immigration status, and family obligations. Without overcomplicating things, you might start with thinking about and sharing some of these ideas:

Relation aggression or social bullying 
Exclusion ostracizes others and reduces their social standing within a group. It often includes tactics such as name-calling, manipulation, and even cyberbullying. Sadly, these types of behaviour are rarely taken seriously by adults, making suggestions like “just ignore them” or “play with someone else”. Many children and even adults internalize these messages from their peers and start to believe the negative things said about them. 

By validating and listening to your child or teen when they experience or see social bullying you can help their emotional well-being and confidence. Other things you can do include:

Are you a role model?
Children learn best from those around them, for better or worse. The first step is to make sure you are setting a good example. Examine your personal beliefs and actions to ensure you are promoting the same values that you want your child to have. 

Other suggestions that you can introduce into your daily life with your children include:

1) Use respectful language
Avoid stereotypes when speaking about people from all backgrounds and always display kindness to others and you’ll find your youngster doing the same.

2) Find ways to build a child’s self-esteem 
When kids have higher self-esteem, they are more likely to accept others and stand up for what they believe is right. Give children the opportunities to show they are capable. You can also show them they are loved and valued with words and actions.

3) Teach empathy and support individuality
Empathy is the ability to notice the feelings of others and imagine how it feels to be in their position. Children have a natural understanding of fairness and equity; they understand when someone is facing injustice even if they don’t have the vocabulary to express that. When they tell you about a particular incident they heard to witnessed, ask them if that would have made them feel if it were them. Did it feel right to see and hear? Do you think anyone got hurt by those actions? You may be surprised by how in-depth this conversation gets and how much they truly observe.

4) Looking at barriers to equality
It’s important to explain and share examples of how factors such as gender, ethnicity, income and age can affect opportunities and outcomes.

5) Permit them to act
Encourage them to use their voice to keep someone safe but remind them of the risks of going too far and how to get adults involved. Let them know that you will always support them and are on their side.

6) Find ways to include cultural experiences
Deepen your connection, remove barriers to participation and nurture rich learning spaces.

7) Celebrate differences
Once you get the conversation started, you’ll find that kids are open to accepting and celebrating differences. All you have to do is plant the seed. 

Natasha Way, Ahki Odayin, a two-spirit person of the Ojibwe People of Wikewemikong First Nations, and Bonnechere Mètis Nations of Ontario. They are an editing assistant, indigenous and disabilities rights advocate, community organizer and artist.

Terms to avoid using:

Blind spot, blind to, blinded by – usually used as a metaphor for ignorant or careless in the context of a sighted person. 

Instead use: Unaware, feigning ignorance, or willfully ignorant.

I don’t see colour – Denying a person’s racial experiences and culture, promoting assimilation.

Instead use: Listen to the BIPOC community and acknowledge racial gaps.

Crazy, insane, mad, psycho, deranged, nuts – once a common term for mental illness, now outdated and demeaning. 

Instead use: Illogical, impulsive, or intense. 

Crippled, crippled by – A outdated term for people living with physical disabilities. 

Instead use: Halted by, or stopped by. 

Hold down the fort – Stemming from soldiers building forts to resist the stereotypical “Native savage”.

Instead use: Take the reins, take up the baton, and assume control.

Terminology you need to know:

• 2SLGBTQ+: 2-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, and additional genders and orientations including agender, asexual and pansexual.

• SMG: Sexual gender minorities.

• Two Spirit: Culturally-specific identity used by some Indigenous people to indicate a person whose gender identity, spiritual identity and/or sexual orientation comprises both male and female spirits.

• Gender-fluid: Someone with varying gender identities over time.

• CIS Gender: Someone who identifies with the gender they were at birth.

• Homophobia: The fear or hatred to people with same-sex attractions.

• Transphobia: The fear, hatred, or aversion of people whose gender identities differ from the sex they
were assigned at birth

• Non-binary: A person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman. I.E., gender fluid or two-spirit.


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