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Exploring Antiracism Activism, Pandemic Surveillance and Policing Health Emergencies

Learning outcomes

Media today constantly presents a wide variety of local and global issues. It is up to individual media consumers to consider their sources and multiple sides of an issue before making and publicizing their opinions in the style of their choosing. Often these opinions can arise in the form of conversations with other people, a letter to a government official, or are represented in media either as news or through fictional accounts.

The learning outcomes associated with this assignment are for you to:

  • apply your prior learning about socio-political-ethical media issues
  • evaluate situational conflicts to recommend promising actions
  • produce persuasive storytelling and improve communication fluency
  • appraise information and media literacies by writing dialogue and description
  • acquire a meta-language through ethical decision-making to negotiate multiple points of view
  • exercise your individual beliefs, creative freedom, and autonomous learning
  • evaluate intellectual independence, personal responsibility, and time management by engaging with the course materials and completing tasks

For this assignment you are asked to select one of the following scenarios to explore. Use course resources and readings to guide your informed opinion—that is, your opinion is most persuasive when you rely on verifiable facts to support your point of view. In this assignment you write in the first person (either from your point of view, or the point of view of a 'character' presented in the scenario. Do not write in the third person). The script can be anywhere between 10 to 12 pages in length, following standard formatting for media.

Please write out your directions and dialogue in the form of a film script or short play. Two forms of writing are required in this assignment:

  1. Dialogue – what is said by the various characters in your scenario
  2. Descriptive Directions – details of the setting, entrances, exits, and other descriptive elements that make no sound and are necessary for your story

Character development (either adding or removing people) is within your discretion. Review related readings prior to writing.

Resources to help inform your responses include: 1. course resources, and 2. other resources to support your position. (Be sure to collect both.) Include a resource list with your bibliography.

This assignment requires you to follow one of the following scenarios (there are three to choose from) and submit a script.

The script should be no more than 10 pages in length, double-spaced and formatted as script/play.

Your script includes:

  1. standard script/play formatting
  2. references to course resources (plus citations)
  3. additional resources (plus citations)
  4. descriptive writing
  5. dialogue
  6. conflict
  7. decision-making
  8. resolution
  9. future actions/next steps
  10. bibliography, following MLA
  • Policy Advisor and Ministry of Health, Chief Epidemiologist (YOU)
  • Patricia Cossin, your Senior Communication Advisor
  • Minister of Health, MPP L. E. Chesen
  • Ontario’s Chief Medical Health officer, Dr. David Williams
  • Ontario Provincial Premier Jean Dodge
  • Celebrity Journalist Erika Rhuma
  • Anti-racism mob
  • Anti-masking mob

In May 2020, off-duty Police officer Glen Traask hears loud voices and, with caution, approaches a scuffle between two men. Traask demands identifying information (also called random street checks and carding). One man takes off running, and Traask pursues, tackles, and incapacitates the suspect. As a result, Albert Sargent suffered serious injuries.

Ten years of judicial delays gagged Sargent's story from the public. Yesterday, however, Officer Traask was convicted of assault but acquitted of aggravated assault and exonerated of obstruction of justice. Legal decisions that usually occur in courtroom settings were, because of the global pandemic, broadcast live on YouTube: Sargent vs. Traask held an audience over 20,000. You saw this recap on last night's news.

Task Instructions

This matter affects everyone in your community. At home, the silence of early morning is disrupted as your family prepares to join thousands of protesters. "Please wear your masks," are your only words. You worry for your children. COVID contagion is universal—the virus does not discriminate. Yet, your community will be out in full force protesting systemic racism and police brutality.

At work, you hear crowds shouting: "Black Lives Matter" and "Defund the Police." Sargent's story represents your community’s collective experience. You admit, any exchange with police triggers traumatic memories of past events and its collective impact. Nevertheless, as Ontario's top public health epidemiologist, you remain committed to providing non-partisan science advice.

Your workday begins in meetings with senior advisor Patricia Cossin, who helps prepare today's public statement. This morning's numbers are increasing, and another lockdown is imminent. Patricia reports that an anti-mask demonstration will soon meet the crowd already protesting the Traask verdict.

You must present more bad news: rising rates of infection hit racialized communities disproportionally; long-term care facilities report escalating death tolls; hospital resources are already beyond capacity—there is a medical mask shortage. Premier Dodge sends advanced notice: shortly, another unpopular lockdown and enhanced contact tracing efforts will be announced.

Contact tracing embeds surveillance in public health offering data for decision-making. At the same time, you recognize how law enforcement can access powerful surveillance tools in violation of civil liberties and personal freedoms. Your name is now part of daily news cycles and critics accuse you of providing inconsistent advice, calling for your resignation. One local journalist, Erika Rhuma, is relentless in her determination to interview you.

Regulation 58/16, introduced less than five years ago, outlined Ontario’s rules on the collection of identifying information by police. Anti-racism protestors insist police have sufficient tools to enforce public safety. Random street checks do not advance police missions. Nonetheless, Premier Dodge supports police and the practice of random carding.

Dodge's announcement begins: "To deter another wave of this public health crisis…" Dodge's statement declares another provincial lockdown and enhanced support for Regulation 58/16. To deter unsanctioned gatherings, Dodge encourages police to stop people in the streets, in effect giving all provincial police increased power and ability to randomly stop individuals. Taking no questions, the Premier departs.

Minister of Health, L. E. Chesen approaches the microphone. "These measures will effectively discourage people from congregating outdoors." Outside, front line protests chant: "Black Lives Matter." "Nobody's Free Until Everybody's Free." "Defund the Police."

Scenario 1:Antiracism Activism, Pandemic Surveillance and Policing Health Emergencies dramatic persona:

Chief Medical Health officer Dr. David Williams steps into the spotlight. "At the moment, the province must fight to contain the coronavirus. Disaggregated race-based data is not necessary." You understand that contact tracing has limited data linkages to other demographic databases, but this was not Williams' message.

As the province's Chief Epidemiologist, you are next to meet the press. Outside the anti-racism demonstration is fully integrated among anti-mask advocates. Rhuma directs the first set of questions: "What position will Public Health take to protect essential care workers? What will help people understand the complexity of today's situation? How to stay safe? Can you offer any words of hope?" All eyes focus on you.

Your responses must support this challenging situation? What advice do you offer to direct community and individual action? What research do you endorse to meaningfully inform this situation? What tools and resources do you have on hand? What CONFLICT is most challenging? What guidance do you promote? What ACTIONS unfold during and after your official public statement?

What happens next? Write the script to address the growing demands of pandemic life.

Required Readings

  1. Murray, Eleanor. (2020). "I’m an epidemiologist. Here’s what I got wrong about covid." The Washington Post.
  2. Bain, Beverly, Dryden, OmiSoorie, Walcott, Rinaldo. (2020). "Coronavirus discriminates against Black lives through surveillance, policing and the absence of health data." The Conversation.
  3. Kendi, Ibram X. (2020). "The American Nightmare: To be black and conscious of anti-black racism is to stare into the mirror of your own extinction." The Atlantic.

Suggested Resources To Consider

  1. Oxfam International. (30th March 2021). Two-thirds of epidemiologists warn mutations could render current COVID vaccines ineffective in a year or less.
  2. Cargle, Rachel Elizabeth. (2019). How to talk to your family about racism. Harpers.
  3. Paterlini, Marta. (21 April 2020). "‘Closing borders is ridiculous’: the epidemiologist behind Sweden’s controversial coronavirus strategy." Nature.
  4. Guariglia, Matthew. (2020)."How to Identify Visible (and Invisible) Surveillance at Protests." Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Dramatic persona:

  • Parent/Guardian (YOU)
  • Jo, teenaged child
  • Michael and Lois, your ex-husband and his young wife
  • Your sister Elaine (a child psychotherapist) and your mother (Ma, or Gran)
  • Dr. Charlie McNamara, the family therapist and court appointed mediator
  • + Jo's social media network

In June 2017, Canada passed Bill C-16 officially recognizing gender identity rights. The words “gender identity or expression” were added to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to sections of the Criminal Code. Your ex-husband Michael responded to this with homophobic slurs. Your child, on the other hand, expressed great delight. Jo identifies as non-binary and has for several years.

Jo is a typical 14-year-old. They wear black hoodies and giggle when nervous. They are opinionated and sarcastic one moment, shy and withdrawn the next. Their insecurities, however, run deep. Jo's group of friends frequently visit your home, and this social group is in constant communication through Instagram and other social media.

You are open-minded and educated about trans-identities. However, Michael and his new wife both expressed fear and anxiety about Jo's gender expressions at the last family mediation. Your sister Elaine, your biggest support, provides indispensable knowledge as a practicing child psychologist. With Elaine's help, you solicited Michael to sign legal documents, approving of Jo's legal name change.

Lately, Jo expresses a desire to take hormones to transition. You and Jo visit the local gender dysmorphia clinic. The clinic doctor advises next steps in Jo's transition, a treatment plan involving testosterone injections. The changes are irreversible. You feel pride and panic. Jo anxiously wants to talk about this in family mediation this afternoon.

Required Readings

Michael's shared custody means his approval is required. He's worried about the treatment’s risks. Silent in your fears about transgender discrimination, you weigh what to do next. Jo is now at the centre of a complicated argument. You must carefully negotiate difficult questions about parental rights and about how young is too young to make medical decisions. You want to do the right thing. And you want to be ready to confront Michael at family mediation and prepare intelligent responses to his objections.

You recognize the messy situation ahead of you.

In preparation for this family mediation session, you write two short letters: (1) to Michael and Lois, clarifying both ethical and legal issues, attaching valuable resources, and asking for consent; and (2) to Jo, reassuring their identity, respecting their autonomy, preparing them for Michael's possible responses, and providing clear suggestions for moving forward.

It's raining cats and dogs. Elaine is expected shortly, after picking up your mother. The drive to mediation usually takes twenty minutes. Given this weather, you will be late to the meeting. Jo is waiting on the covered porch for the car to arrive. Jo stares into the smart phone, silently connecting with friends.

Before mediation begins you share the letters. Then, as the session begins, Michael reads his letter aloud, with comments from his young wife. Lois respectfully asks Mr. McNamara, the family's therapist and court-appointed mediator, about insurance coverage and the costs of Jo's new healthcare needs.

Jo reads their letter while texting. As their phone dings and whistles, you trust Jo's friends are following. Jo mumbles, reading selected parts of the letter for all to hear. Your sister and mother converse about child's rights but are interrupted by Dr. McNamara. He directs a question to you. What are the consequences of discouraging or resisting Jo's treatment plan? Everyone turns to you for a response.

How can you support this challenging decision-making process? What complications scare the hell out of you? What would this change mean to you and the rest of your family? What research do you endorse to meaningfully inform this conversation? What tools and resources do you have on hand? What CONFLICT is most challenging? What guidance do you promote? What ACTIONS unfold during mediation?

What happens next?  Write the script to address the growing demands of family life.

Required Reading

  1. Singal, Jesse. (2018). “When Children Say They’re Trans," The Atlantic, July/Aug Issue.
  2. National Center on Community, Family and Parent Engagement, Healthy Gender Development and Young Children: A Guide for Early Childhood Programs and Professionals pp. 1-18.
  3. National LGBT Health Education Center, Affirmative Care for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People: Best Practices for Front-line Health Care Staff. The Fenway Institute, Boston, 2020.
  4. Williams, Crista. (2014). Transgender, in ‘‘Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,’’ Editors Susan Stryker, Francisco J. Galarte, Jules Gill-Peterson, Grace Lavery, and Abraham B. Weil. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, Volume 1, Numbers 1–2 , Duke pp. 232-234.
  5. Carter, Julian. (20214) Transition. in ‘‘Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,’’ Editors Susan Stryker, Francisco J. Galarte, Jules Gill-Peterson, Grace Lavery, and Abraham B. Weil. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, Volume 1, Numbers 1–2, Duke pp. 235-237.

Suggested Resources To Consider

When Children Say They're Trans, Continued. (2018). The Atlantic selects four (4) responses to its cover story.

  1. Kanner, Robyn. I Detransitioned. But Not Because I wasn’t Trans. Atlantic. June 22 2018.
  2. McBee, Thomas Page. What Is the Media So Worried About the Parents of Trans Kids? Atlantic. June 25 2018.
  3. Meadow, Tey. The Loaded Language Shaping the Trans Conversation. Atlantic. July 10 2018.
  4. Urquhart, Evan. My Parents Still Struggle to Know Me After I Transitioned Late. Atlantic. July 4 2018.

Suggested Resources To Consider

Alix, (2018). Parts One through Five: Response to “When Children Say They’re Trans”

Cyphers, Jenny. (2018). A Response to “When Children Say They’re Trans”

Enke, A Finn. (2020). Introduction: Transfeminist Perspectives

Dramatic persona:

  • Campaign Manager (YOU)
  • Candidate Chris Mehet
  • Two GREEN party policy advisors: M. Green and M. Moss
  • Two representatives from local community: Nancy Pruskey and Donald Walcot
  • Celebrity Journalist
  • Indigenous Elder
  • Community mob

In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) revealed a tragic survey of the Kamloops Indian Residential School; apparently the school was guilty of the death of fifty (50) children. Thirteen years later, in May 2021, a survey of the school and its properties discovered a stark and startling story of Canada's dark past. The investigation identified two hundred and fifteen (215) children's bodies buried on the school's grounds. In the last month, more than 1,000 unmarked graves were discovered at former residential schools, including in Kamloops, B.C., Brandon, Manitoba, and Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.

The tone of public outcry was both shock and rage. Across multiple media platforms, people took to social media to express their anger and sadness. As represented in media, swift community actions initiated powerful awareness movements. One could not drive through Kamloops without observing, from house to house, the presentation of children's toys on front porches. On grassy corners and open urban parking lots, neighbours set out children's shoes in orderly rows —a pair of children's shoes for each of the 215 lost lives.

The 2021 provincial election campaigns are vigorously canvassing voters and election day looms. A non-Indigenous candidate —Chris Mehet [GREEN party] officially announced a campaign to run for public office, for a seat on the provincial legislative body in the electoral district of Rayleigh, British Columbia. Rayleigh's voting constituency includes electorates living in the city of Kamloops.

As the Campaign Manager and top policy advisor, you are about to facilitate a focused media strategy with Mehet, two party representatives sent from Vancouver, and two other advisors handpicked by Mehet from the community. Shortly after this meeting, Mehet must speak to local news in response to this tragedy and the local community's awareness activities.

It's an unusually warm spring, and today Mehet looks worried, disheveled, and frustrated. Reports from polling place Mehet slightly behind the incumbent representative because franking privileges supported a direct mail campaign. Mehet crumples the incumbent's postcard and tosses it in the trash. You call the meeting to order. Locals immediately call for an Indigenous framework to boost the campaign. An Indigenous elder is waiting to speak with you and Mehet.

Party leadership insists on environmental issues and inclusion of the party's "climate emergency" agenda. These officials reiterate the condition of party support: funding is contingent on Mehet's fidelity to the party platform. Green and Moss are ready to present Environment and Climate Change Canada's {ECCC] ladder of engagement, providing candidates and policymakers with a greater sense of how Canadians perceive and engage with climate change.

At a broad level, this framework segments the population into four distinct groups: i. Empowered, ii. Aware, iii. Skeptic, & iv. Dismissive. Each group requires a distinct engagement strategy, prescribed by ECCC and party leadership. Mehet is unsure whether the party offers Indigenous supports and tools for crisis communication management. Green and Moss advise a standard statement: "our thoughts and prayers…” However, in this context, you disagree. When you hear politicians use this kind of nebulous language, the community response is anger, often leading to a mob mentality.

You must write Mehet's response with input from this team. Local journalists are setting up cameras in front of Mehet headquarters. Locals begin to gather in anticipation of this announcement. What conflict is most challenging? What guidance do you promote? What actions can the candidate reasonably promise?

What happens next? Write the script to address the growing demands of the public.

Required Reading

  1. Moya-Smith, Simon. (2021). “How to be an Alley to Native and Indigenous People," VICE, June Issue, 6/9/2021.
  2. Kluttz, Jenalee & Jude Walker, and Pierre Walter, (2020). Unsettling allyship, unlearning and learning towards decolonising solidarity, Studies in the Education of Adults, 52:1, pp. 49-66. 49-66
  3. McIntosh, Peggy. (1988). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. excerpted from Working Paper 189. "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies," (1990). Independent School Journal, Winter, Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA. Pp. 1-7.

Suggested Resources To Consider

  1. Public Opinion Research. (2020). Canada, Climate Change and Education establishes a Canada-wide baseline dataset reflecting different groups’ knowledge and understanding of climate change, their perspectives on the importance of climate change and its risks, and views on the role of schools and climate change education.
  2. Francis, Angelyn. (2021). "Two Indigenous scholars read a history textbook chapter on residential schools. This is what they would change." The Toronto Star.
  3. Pauls, Karen. (2021), New resources help Indigenous communities start process of searching for unmarked graves. CBC News.
  4. Tukker, Paul. (2021). Yukon government, First Nations agree to separate school board, Indigenous-led schools. CBC News.
  5. ahnationtalk. (20201). ITK And the Mastercard Foundation Partner To Develop An Inuit Nunangat University.

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