Creative Minds Resource – Creating Safe Spaces

Creative Minds Resource – Creating Safe Spaces
Creative Minds Resource – Creating Safe Spaces2020-01-05T06:35:43+00:00

Theme: “Creating Safe Spaces: Countering Racism and Discrimination”

When planning your submissions, try to think about the following keywords and questions related to the theme. Please note that the keywords and questions are meant to help you start thinking on the theme. However, they shouldn’t limit your thoughts as the theme is broader than just those elements. Therefore, when composing your work, feel free to be creative. Just remember you want to present your ideas in a way that will inspire the reader and viewer to think and become aware of the importance of the theme.


Safe space is a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm[1].

Systemic Oppression is the institutionalized oppression, which happens when system-wide laws, policies, procedures and practices cause the unequal treatment of individuals and groups of people created by social structures and social institutions. These inequalities and their oppressive consequences constitute systemic oppression whether the individuals within these dominant social structures and social institutions behave in oppressive ways or not.

Systemic Racism refers to the social structures and social institutions that create, tolerate, reproduce, and perpetuate the racial inequalities and racism that has oppressed and marginalized those not part of the dominant group.

Equity is defined as the quality of being fair, unbiased, and just. In other words, equity involves ensuring that everyone has access to the resources, opportunities, power and responsibility they need to reach their full, healthy potential as well as making changes so that unfair differences may be understood and addressed.

Ally is a person who supports an individual or group to be treated equitably and fairly. This often grows out of the self-awareness of inequities or privileges we have experienced. Action is taken individually or collectively to create conditions that enable everyone to have equal access to resources and benefits.

Race is a social category created for the purpose of classifying individuals based upon physical features such as skin colour. The dominant group, with help from social structures and social institutions, uses race to identify and socially organize groups of individuals in a manner that oppresses any group of individuals who are not perceived to be White.

Racialization is the process through which individuals are socialized into various groups of people on the basis of their physical characteristics. It is these physical characteristics that the dominant group uses to differentiate groups of individuals from themselves, while at the same time making their own physical characteristics invisible and normal.

Internalized Oppression occurs when an individual or group of individuals accept their social position as one that is deserved, natural, and inevitable. Individuals accept that they are in some way inferior when compared to those who are part of the dominant group.

White Privilege is the granting of social privileges by institutions in a way that benefits White people beyond what is commonly experienced by racialized individuals under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. White privilege is not something that White people necessarily do, create, or enjoy on purpose. It refers more to the phenomenon that social systems award preferences based on the presumption of White as the norm.

Marginalization occurs when social structures and social institutions are used to disadvantage those who are not perceived as part of the dominant group. These individuals are often denied equitable access to resources and become vulnerable to further exploitation and social exclusion.

Islamophobia is an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam and are Muslim.

Oppression occurs when one socially defined group exerts power and dominance over another group so that it benefits the former and oppresses the latter. Repeated acts of oppression can eventually become institutionalized or systemic, thus becoming hidden and seemingly ‘normal’.

Power is the unearned and often hidden ability for individuals from the dominant group to exert their influence over other individuals as a result of social position[2].

Microaggressions can be broken down into 4 distinct categorizes of behaviours:

Microinsults are behavioural actions or verbal remarks that convey rudeness or insensitivity or demean a person’s racial identity or heritage.

• Ascription of intelligence: ascription of intelligence promotes the notion that cognitive abilities are based on race, gender, or another identity.
• Pathologizing cultural values and communication styles: this microinsult suggests that the culture and communication styles of racialized people are abnormal or undesirable. It also sends the message that White culture is the ideal to aspire to or emulate.
• Ascription of criminality: this microinsult suggests that racialized people, particularly Black and Indigenous people, are prone to criminality or are dangerous because of their race.
• Second-class status: this microaggression occurs when the dominant group is given preferential treatment over marginalized people.

Microinvalidation is the dismissal, exclusion, or negation of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of marginalized people.

Alien in own land: this microinvalidation assumes that all racialized people are foreign- born and not Canadian.
• Denial of oppression: this occurs when a marginalized person’s reality of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or other oppression is dismissed, rejected, or invalidated.
• Colour blindness: this microinvalidation, suggests that the person doesn’t see race and doesn’t want to acknowledge another person’s race or other identities. Colour blindness negates the cultural values, norms, and life experiences of marginalized people. It also implies that acknowledging race or other identity is divisive.
• Myth of meritocracy: the final subcategory of microinvalidation is the myth of meritocracy. This suggests that oppression doesn’t exist and that everyone has an equal chance to advance in organizations or attain their goals if they try hard enough.

Microassaults are sometimes referred to as “old-fashioned” explicit forms of discrimination. It includes name-calling, avoidant behaviour, or deliberate acts of discrimination.

Environmental Microaggressions can reside in the climate of an organization or even in the broader society. The messages in the environment create a sense of validation for one group, but invalidation for another group[3].

Discussion Questions:

● What role do our identities play in situations where we are privileged or excluded? In what ways can identities be used to exclude others (consider historical examples; what can be done about this?)
● Racial categories are not biological realities. How can we use racial labels to speak about identities rather than non-existent biological myths? How would our language and society change if we removed all racial terms from our language?[4]
● Institutional discrimination continues to persist. What is the impact of this persistence on racial minorities? How do things such as residential segregation and educational disparities impact our communities and make our spaces less inclusive?
● What is the nature of contemporary racism and how does it affect the spaces where people may not feel at ease in their surroundings? Is contemporary racism more latent/institutional or manifest, or does it depend on the group being discriminated against?
● How do racial microaggressions impact individuals and communities? How can one (those who hold power in their racial identity) be an ally against racism/with those whose racialized identity is marginalized?
● Do safe spaces restrict free speech and expression or allow space for more voices to have a place/be heard? Think about your own experiences with your peers and friends—was there a time when someone made space for you to be heard? How did this make you feel?
● What can we do to make online spaces and social media safer and more inclusive to different views and people? What about the aspect of the internet as an echo chamber and a reinforcer of stereotypes? Think of doxing and online harassment, or a specific example like the #GamerGate controversy.
● How does the media and portrayals of minorities contribute to or hinder the creation of safe spaces?
● What is the impact of unconscious bias on education, employment, housing, and criminal justice? What steps can we take to ensure fairer treatment?
● How can you be an ally to a newcomer to Canada, to friends, to people who are facing discrimination? What is an appropriate reaction to racist comments? How can we educate people to not be prejudiced and discriminatory?
● What causes people to want to exclude another person or group of people? How can you prevent exclusion in your school and the greater community? Have we come far enough as a society in ensuring people can live free from discrimination? Where do we go from here?

Further reading/listening:

Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy

Creating Safe Spaces for Victims of Microaggressions

David Williams: How racism makes us sick

Villy Wang: A business against racism  

Ruby Sales: How we can start to heal the pain of racial division?

Kimberle Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality

Racial/Ethnic Prejudice & Discrimination: Crash Course

[1] Safe Space | Definition of Safe Space by Lexico. (2019). Retrieved from

[2] Wong, H., & Yee, J. Y. (2010). An Anti-Oppression Framework for Child Welfare in Ontario. Retrieved from Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies website:

[3] Turner Consulting Group. (2018). Adapting the SNAP Program for use in the African Canadian Community (1). Retrieved from Turner Consulting Group website:

[4] Pollock, M. (2008). Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School. New York, NY: The New Press