June 25th, 2024

Social justice key to critical race theory

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 15, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Is storytelling a way to reveal racism in the experiences of people of colour? That was the focus of Thursday’s Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs meeting.
Guest speaker Ibrahim Turay, full-time faculty member in the School of Justice Studies at Lethbridge College and a PhD candidate in cultural, social, and political thought at the University of Lethbridge, discussed the issue in SACPA’s weekly session.
In his talk, Turay gave insight into critical race theory and the role of storytelling and counter-narrative.
He has a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Alberta, with 11 years of experience working for Alberta Justice & Solicitor General, Correctional Services Division, as a correctional, probation, and senior probation officer. Ibrahim’s specialty is in counter-storytelling as a critical race theory methodology. His professional interests include Black youth-police interactions, racialization, racial profiling, marginalization, youth gangs, and corrections.
“What is race? We know race is a central concept that plays a part in the segregation of Black peoples in Canada and the United States yet we don’t always hear about race, especially when we’re doing research in our societies, said Turay.
“So what is race? For me, I think we know that race is not biological,” he said.
“For me, I see race as a social construct just as most critical race theorists have seen it as a social construct but it doesn’t necessarily mean race doesn’t exist,” said Turay in his talk.
Turay said if certain things are considered to be attributes of natural tendencies in Blacks, then it can be inferred in society what a Black person will do when there is an interaction.
He added “although we can say race is a social construct, I want us to also know it is real in terms of fitting a hat on those we identify as black or yellow or brown,” he said.
Critical race theory, he said, is a theoretical perspective that started in the U.S. in the 1980s. For him it’s an approach to centralize race and racism and analyze laws, policies and standard operating procedures of various institutions. These institutions can include the legal system including the court system and the correctional system.
Through critical race theory, it can be seen how race informs some policies that exist in institutions, especially when those policies are explored by the people of colour and other marginalized individuals within our society, Turay said.
Racism is not something that is just based on individual bias or an individual prejudice, he said. But rather it is seen as a practice that is imbedded within the policies of institutions, he said.
For example, “we may see that perhaps we have a practice of the best way of parenting that is informed by a western view of what it means to be a parent.”
“When we explore racism and racial experience within the school system, we can see how students of colour experience school on a daily basis,” he said.
What also can be seen is the experience of Black people and other marginalized people from their interactions with police and the court system.
“Sometimes we just have to see the numbers of who is over represented in our court system, who is over represented in our prison and so on. Who is over represented in terms of the kids we have in care?”
He said it’s important to hear the stories from people who are marginalized, their stories which Turay considers not just to be anecdotal, but rather as data.
“Critical race theorists,” he said, “are committed to social justice.”

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