The new generation of youth has a great challenge on their hands. The need to fight racism, make their voices heard, and instill real change is urgent. Hence, The University of Winnipeg is taking part in the “React to the Racism: Youth Challenge,” an initiative of several federal and provincial organizations intended to motivate youth participation in a global conversation on combatting racism. The discussion will lead up to the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, 2013.
Participation is open to students from 14 to 20 years old who answer the questions: “How has racism affected you?” and “How can we end racial discrimination?” Youth can provide written, multimedia and artistic submissions, individually or in groups. There are up to $500 in prizes and the deadline for entry is February 15, 2013.
The campaign kicked off at the University of Winnipeg on Tuesday, December 4, 2012, where Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at UWinnipeg, hosted a student panel. The three students — Nicky Spence, Behnam Beizaei and Brennan Lundie — spoke before a group of young people about their experiences as natives and immigrants, and how acts of discrimination have affected them.
Beizaei is a 19-year-old Iranian immigrant who thinks that one way to eliminate racism is for the development of government programs to encourage the sharing of ethnic culture. These programs would provide the opportunity for people to meet others from different countries.
Beizaei’s thought is echoed by Kinew, who believes one way to combat racism is to gather people from different ethnic backgrounds and have them share common activities. This will allow people to relate as “human beings” and for racism to “disappear naturally”.
However, Kinew notes that one of the biggest steps is “thinking and talking about racism.” Attitudes of discrimination have existed for a long time and patterns can only change when people are working collectively — and with a clear understanding that discrimination and racism are unacceptable.
Kinew noted that he personally experienced discrimination. “When I was a child, I was attacked by adults at the school and the hockey rink for being native; not just names, but physical attacks… it is an ugly reality in Canada today.” However, Kinew added, “You can’t fight fire with fire. It is not a good option.” Recognizing his experience was unfair, he thought of two choices: get mad, (which would only hurt himself) or instead, refuse to let it dominate his thinking and continue moving forward.
The “React to Racism: Youth Challenge” is a joint effort among the following partners: The University of Winnipeg, the Newcomers Employment and Education development Services Inc (NEEDS), the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM), Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata, Seven Oaks School Division, the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties (MARL), Ka Ni Kanichihk, Manitoba Education and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
For more information about the contest visit: www.reacttoracism.ca
Article and photo by Alejandra Salcedo, an intern in UWinnipeg’s Marketing & Communications department.