Lecturer, Sofienberg School
Lecturer, Sofienberg School
We are not so fragile on the eastern edge. Here we discuss the n-word, Sian demonstrations and caricatures in the classrooms.
This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
In the NRK article “A teacher on tiptoe” teacher Anne Herre Bisgaard says that she must defend the use of words and expressions such as “white lies” and “brighter times”. The reason is that her students interpret it as hidden racism. This may mean that students are either hypersensitive when it comes to racism, or that they rightly question a society where xenophobia, prejudice and everyday racism prevail. In this connection, we want to share our experiences from a center-east school in Oslo that differs from the mentioned teacher’s experience.
“They”, “them” and “you”
In the first years as teachers, it was a great surprise to meet students with an immigrant background who used the words “they”, “them” and “you” when we discussed Norway and the Norwegian in social studies. It was not an expression of opposition or reluctance, but a completely intuitive distance to Norwegian from several of the students with a foreign family background. This also applied to second-generation students who were born in Norway themselves.
What is interesting in this context is that this division into “us” and “them” is not so prominent until they start secondary school. Therefore, it is extra important that we dare to ask: Why are you not part of “us” anymore?
It is difficult to think like a “we” when you are constantly reminded that you are different
There are structures and forces in society that make it difficult for these young people to think “we”. During the same teaching hours, it emerged that students with darker skin color were more often stopped by the police. Much more often. Some every single week.
For the white students who lived only a few blocks away, the situation was completely different. Most had never had anything to do with the police.
Minority students also often reported condemning comments from older people on the street, staring at shops and discriminating in job search. It is difficult to think like a “we” when you are constantly reminded that you are different.
Helene Uri style
Some of the above may be racism, but most are expressions of unconscious prejudice and xenophobia.
For our current students, the big picture is still perceived as racism. It’s hard to disagree.
Over time, these structures have become apparent to the rest of us as well. The ethnic Norwegian classmates see it more clearly than many adults. This is basically not so strange, as they often go side by side into the shops, on the bus and on the street.
What the mentioned columnist points out as “hypersensitivity” in the face of linguistic expressions such as “white lies” and “brighter times”, can be perceived as symptomatic of an inclusive youth environment. It should be recognized and not least be an interesting starting point for an examination of our language in true Helene Uri style.
One should rather praise the students for wanting to put the spotlight on this. We understand well that they need to examine the background of words and expressions such as “white lie”, “Black-Per”, “black work”, “black sheep” and “blacklisted”.
If the school is to contribute to the fight against racism, it is a prerequisite that the teachers have a safe and trusting relationship with each individual student. There is broad agreement that you as a teacher must work extra with the relationship with so-called vulnerable and vulnerable students. Many students with non-Western family backgrounds belong to this group.
Here we are talking about students who constantly experience xenophobia and prejudice. But if people have a fear of the strange, then it also means that we find security in the near.
It is important to help students with an immigrant background to feel that they are not strangers, but part of this close. Part of “us” and “we”. This work definitely needs more employees in the school with an immigrant background. But we also notice as teachers how little it actually takes for our students to feel seen and recognized for who they are, and their background. Whether it is that we like the same food and music or live in the same street.
With an extension of “devoted”, it is easier to ask questions and discuss sensitive topics in the classroom. With good relations between the teacher and the students, you do not have to “go on your toes”.
We are not so fragile on the eastern edge. Here we discuss the n-word, Sian demonstrations and caricatures in the classrooms. And preferably also Norwegian words and expressions.