- Understand how the intersecting oppression of racism and sanism within mental health systems and in the community affect racialized people experiencing mental distress
- Analyze the intersections of race, gender, citizenship and mental distress for racialized people in Canada
- Appreciate the impacts of cultural expectations, stereotyping, and racism on individuals’ experiences of mental health support
- Acknowledge the importance of mental health supports that appropriately respond to these issues of stereotyping, racism, and cultural difference
The components for this unit are two poems composed by youth who identify as racialized women. Interview and focus group excerpts for both authors are additional components.
Every inch of my body is covered with words and expectations
The first poem, Cheers to Capitalism by C.J., explores the madness of capitalism and its affects on Asian women in the workplace. C.J. invites you to think about the violence of work, and our own self-expectations.
Does her heart never leave her throat?
The second poem, Jane Doe by Kiran Shoker, explores colonialism, race and gender oppression, cultural expectations, and family. Kiran focuses on the anxiety held within a women’s body and tensions of experience.
CONTENT WARNING: these poems and interview excerpts include explicit descriptions of mental distress.
Evaluating the Components
This unit presents stigma in multiple forums: the media, expert knowledge, racial and gendered stereotypes, and in how we see ourselves as individuals and in the expectations that are projected onto us. For both of the poets who contributed to this unit, their art is an avenue to naming pain and claiming a complicated identity that connects with both the personal and the collective (family, community, nation).
Many oppressions exist across communities and are differently articulated across these communities. Racialized people who face these forms of oppressions contend with negotiating these experiences as members of minoritized communities in Canada, which can also be accompanied by [the] assumptions that their racialized communities are ‘more patriarchal’ and/or ‘more sanist’. This mindset often foregrounds how their experiences are interpreted and, further, how racist perspectives are reproduced.
For this reason, the poetry and interview segments in this unit must be taught with an understanding of how to facilitate discussions that will not perpetuate damaging assumptions about marginalized groups. Facilitators should be equipped to teach from a decolonial, anti-racist and anti-oppressive perspective. To support safe and effective learning, educators new to this material need to study and implement Learning Ensemble’s Anti-Oppression Statement.
Racialized youth with mental health differences deal with a complex web of oppression, experiencing racial and gendered stereotyping and disregard. When racialized youth reach out to the mainstream mental system, they often encounter unhelpful racialized constructions of wellbeing, with cultural connections to family and community pathologized or disregarded and assumptions made regarding family violence, links to crime, or addictions. As such, it is insufficient to address a lack of cultural understanding in the mental health system; the implications of racial oppression within this system and in the wider community must also be addressed. At the same time some racialized youth express the need to create greater opportunities to discuss their experiences of mental distress in their families and racialized communities.
All of this takes place against the pervasive racism that continues to undercut equity in Canadian society. Overt antagonism may be episodic, but everyday racism is enacted in personal relationships and working lives, impacting how racialized youth encounter community, schools, the state, capitalism, and the nation.