A Teaser from Gebhard, McLean & St. Denis’ White Benevolence
edited by Amanda Gebhard, Sheelah McLean and Verna St. Denis
In our work with social work students, pre-service teachers, justice workers and health care professionals, we note the troubling repetition of explanations “that let those accountable for on-going domination off the hook for pervasive inequality” (St. Denis 2007: 1085). Settlers often hold Indigenous Peoples responsible for the devastating consequences of inequitable conditions maintained by whiteness within our institutions. The most popular explanations for inequality today are rooted in deficit discourses widely circulated through what we are calling colonial scripts— these are the stories, narratives and statements that frame Indigenous identity as inferior and lacking and simultaneously construct a positive identity for white settlers and thereby naturalize settler-colonial power. So ubiquitous and so entrenched, negative and racist narratives about Indigenous Peoples are stated by white settlers as if they were reasoned facts (Schick 2002). Colonial scripts reproduce the national narrative that Canada is a peaceful, non-discriminatory nation that has been built on individual work ethic alone (McLean 2018; Thobani 2007). … Colonial scripts allow social workers, health care professionals and teachers to assume the familiar role of innocent do-gooders who simply wish to help and to see themselves as providers of what they imagine Indigenous Peoples are lacking — be it intelligence, work ethic or parenting skills. As mechanisms of white settler colonialism, the dehumanizing narratives that mark Indigenous Peoples as biologically different and inferior continue to impact Indigenous Peoples’ lives and deaths in Canadian systems today. In assuming positions of superiority and of knowing best, non-Indigenous people continue a pattern that began at first contact: “Ever since the two races first met, non-Indians have been trying to teach, convert, ‘improve’ or otherwise change Indian peoples” (Doxtator 2011: 33).