Combatting racism through film and social media

By Michelle Lam, Stephanie Spence, Akech Mayuom, Denise Humphreys, Genevieve Maltais Lapointe, and Ayodeji Osiname
November 2023
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What you need to know

After a survey of 500 Manitobans regarding their opinions and experiences of racism, we found contradictions between the province’s high levels of racism and overall support for broad themes like diversity or multiculturalism, with key differences related to gender, ethnicity, age, and around who opted to remain ‘neutral.’ From the open-ended stories that people shared through the survey, we created four films, which we launched on social media. The films were viewed over half a million times, leading to engaged discussions in online comments. After analyzing this online data, we found that key tactics were undertaken to push back against difficult knowledge like racism, and we made suggestions for educators about how to diminish this defensiveness.

Why this research is important

Manitoba is a diverse province, and although racism research in Manitoba does exist, the research is usually focused on specific communities or systems. But racism is not limited to particular groups or places, and understanding the views of society broadly along with the experiences of individuals are both important. In addition to implications for social action, this research highlights discrepancies in words and actions, highlighting the ways racism impacts people in the province. Our goal was to examine how this racism shifts in response to the real-life stories of Manitobans and to illustrate that the patterns in this pushback can be used to counteract and educate.

How this research was conducted

This was a complex project involving online and phone surveys, scriptwriting, two rounds of focus groups, film creation, a film launch, the creation of a facilitation guide and toolkits of resources, and a social media comments analysis.

What the researchers found

The survey analysis revealed significant differences along gender, age, and ethnic origins for how people experienced racism, how they viewed multiculturalism and diversity, and how likely they were to choose ‘neutral’ as an answer. Indigenous women and women from other ethnic identities are more likely than Caucasian/white people, and more likely than men from similar backgrounds, to experience discrimination because of race, culture, or religion.

From the analysis of the films launched on social media, we found that pushback takes different forms, including hatred, defensiveness, stereotyping, fear-mongering, unsolicited explanations and advice, insults, and diminishment of suffering. However, there were significant interruptions of this pushback, including educating, sharing strategies for resilience, raising awareness, and sharing personal experiences.

How this research can be used

Learning to be actively anti-racist involves moving against the ‘flow’ of racism and white supremacy, which is observable in online spaces. Moving against the barrage of defensiveness, blame, fear, and harmful advice can be emotionally taxing and difficult. Yet, as the commenters on these films also showed, they can open up spaces for education, sharing experiences, interrupting hate, and creating awareness. This work is difficult and demanding, and care must be taken for those intentionally moving against the flow of racism, particularly in online spaces. These actions are powerful in resisting and interrupting racism. This knowledge can support educators in their efforts to proactively counter those maneuvers with further education, resources, and relationships.


Funding for this project was made possible through the Government of Canada.

About the Researchers

Michelle Lam

Michelle Lam, PhD

Michelle Lam is the director of BU CARES and a member of Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Stephanie Spence

Stephanie Spence

Stephanie Spence is a third-year student in the Department of Psychiatric Nursing at Brandon University and a research assistant at BU CARES.

Akech Mayuom

Akech Mayuom, BA, BScPN, RPN

Akech Mayuom is a registered psychiatric nurse working in northern Manitoba in community mental health.

Denise Humphreys

Denise Humphreys, BSW

Denise Humphreys is a master’s student in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Manitoba.

Genevieve Maltais Lapointe, MA

Genevieve Maltais Lapointe is a research analyst at Brandon University.

Ayodeji Osiname

Ayodeji Osiname, PhD

Ayodeji Osiname is a faculty member in Leadership and Educational Administration at Brandon University.


  • anti-racism
  • arts-based research
  • mixed methods
  • racism

Publications Based on the Research

Lam, M., Spence, S., Mayuom, A., Humphreys, D., & Osiname, A. (2023). Diminishing defensiveness in anti-racist discourse: Common pushbacks to online anti-racism content and suggestions for strategic maneuvers. Equity in Education & Society, 1–13.

Lam, M., Humphreys, D., Maltais-Laponte, G., Mayuom, A., Spence, S. (2023). The realities of racism: Exploring attitudes in Manitoba, Canada. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 45(4).

Lam, M. (2023). Viral videos to combat viral vitriol: Methodological considerations for ethical engagement. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

Editor: Christiane Ramsey

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