This is the story of two nurses in Joliette who are undergoing “anti-racist” training. They are taught that the Atikamekw are “always ready to laugh” and that it is necessary to create “a rapprochement” with them, for example by using a nickname. The nurses apply their learning in a naive, but in good faith manner. An Atikamekw, Jocelyne Ottawa, feels insulted by their actions and the nurses are then fired. Isabelle Hachey reported this administrative misunderstanding1but we must come back to these problematic formations.
Diversity training, which is sometimes called “anti-racist”, is now commonplace in private companies, universities and public institutions, notably in the Canadian state apparatus.
They generally stem from the following logic: Western institutions are not neutral and they favor “white culture” in an unconscious way. Already, claiming that a culture would unite the Scots, the French, the Russians and the “white” Quebecers is highly questionable, but let’s move on for the moment.
As our institutions are not neutral, they would have to adapt their interventions according to the culture of the individual to whom they are addressed.
The nurses therefore wanted to change their habits to be in cultural symbiosis with their patient. However, it is precisely the opposite that has happened.
Such logic has a name, it is that of the fight against “systemic racism”. Quebec has debated this theory of “systemic racism” at length in recent years. Let’s leave it aside here, let’s rather judge the tree (theory) by its fruits (solutions).
There is no doubt that these formations that are imposed almost everywhere in the West essentialize populations by assigning them immutable characteristics. They also infantilize professionals, in this case health professionals, who are generally very concerned about the service they provide, regardless of the skin color of their client or patient.
But by following the teachings offered by these trainings, it is no longer a patient they have before their eyes, it is an Aboriginal, a Black, a White. The patient is no longer treated as a patient, but according to his ethnic or racial group.
Moreover, one does not have to scratch very hard at the varnish of these formations to see that this essentialization easily falls into the most vulgar stereotype.
A few years ago, there was an “anti-racism trainer” in the United States who explained in the New York Times2 that punctuality was part of “white culture” and that it oppressed young blacks by unfairly punishing them for arriving late for school. Rather than combating stereotypes, it would seem that the “anti-racism” of these formations positively claims it. You will have to explain to us how this is a step forward.
If the nurses had not undergone their “anti-racist” training, it is not an exaggeration to think that they would not have acted as they did and they would not have received the multiple accusations of racism that have followed. When a formation leads to exactly the opposite of what it was intended, it can be said that it is not only ineffective, but frankly harmful.
Employees do not have to undergo infantilizing training that makes them adopt racist behavior.