GBC’s Student Association sets an example for anti-oppression awareness
Anti-oppression has become increasingly prevalent in contemporary society. More workplaces are now requiring their employees to attend training on its awareness.
Oppression happens when someone uses privilege to marginalize, silence or invalidate a social group who does not have that privilege. It is usually practiced in order to gain more power over an affected social group.
The purpose of anti-oppression training is to analyze and challenge the discrimination and injustices affecting these social groups.
The Student Association (SA) of George Brown College (GBC) is one instance where this training has been implemented.
In fact, the SA mandates that staff partake in anti-oppression training as a part of their orientation.
Nour Alideeb, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), led this discussion for the SA’s fall 2018 intake, which covered ways anti-oppression can aid in counteracting discrimination.
The training “ranges from things like how to engage with different types of communities and being more mindful of different life experiences, all the way to knowing how to intervene in situations where there is a racist or homophobic interaction,” said Alideeb.
The purpose of this effort is to develop a safer, accepting and more welcoming environment for everyone.
It is hard to say whether or not other organizations will adapt to and follow this effort. It may be necessary to advocate for a mandatory policy, which will, at the very least, inform people about the need for anti-oppression efforts.
GBC seems to be making students aware of anti-oppression, which is the first step to advocating for an increasingly inclusive community.
“It’s only my second week and one of our program coordinators have already come in and spoken to our classes (regarding anti-oppression), so if they are already starting to do that by the second week I think they’re going to do a pretty good job throughout the school year,” said Alessia Leitch, a fashion business student.
Despite these existing initiatives at GBC, some students feel the work is being done unnoticed.
“There is not really any advocating for it (anti-oppression) that I can see, walking around here at George Brown College,” said Elissia Aycan, from the jewellery arts program.
Clearly the awareness of anti-oppression is still developing, and more involvement seems to be the key.
To tolerate different identities is one thing, but accepting those identities can have a bigger impact.
For example, assuming one’s gender incorrectly can be harmful towards the person’s mental health and self-esteem.
“It does require a certain amount of unlearning,” said Michelle Pettis, Community Action Centre (CAC) co-ordinator for the SA.
It makes it “much easier when people are willing to ask questions of each other so that they can do better and get it right the next time,” Pettis elaborated.
While refraining from labelling someone in the hallway may seem to be enough, marginalized people continue to suffer from discrimination.
Not accepting but solely tolerating one’s choices and circumstances means that one is still subjected to estrangement.
The fight for anti-oppression to reach a normative status in society has progressed substantially in recent years. However, there is still a lot that can be done.
A sense of belonging is what’s at stake.