An Examination of Racial Microaggressions as Observed by White Post-Secondary Youth

Lay Summary 

In order to better understand the prevalence of racism, prejudice, and/or discrimination in Newfoundland and Labrador, interviews were conducted with 30 post-secondary students aged 18-26 who were studying at Memorial University of Newfoundland during the 2015 spring semester. Using an in-depth, semi-structured interviewing process, the specific themes explored were: What is the nature of racism as observed by white post-secondary youth? Do white post-secondary youth believe the term Newfie is an ethnic slur? What are white post-secondary youths’ views of Canada’s response to the Syrian Crisis? This research was designed to not only allow for a fuller understanding of these themes but also to allow for comparisons to be drawn from earlier quantitative works (Baker, Price, and Walsh 2015) on the observations of racism among junior and senior high school students in St. John’s as well as first-year post-secondary students attending Memorial University (Baker 2017).

There were seven key findings:

The majority of racism, prejudice, and/or discrimination has been observed among the peers of post-secondary white youth but, in general, it was noted that many failed to address it directly with their peers;

The types of microaggressions observed are generally directed towards racialized minorities (e.g., immigrants/refugees);

The majority of microaggressions are microassaults that are either ethnic slurs and/or racialized jokes;

The majority of white post-secondary youth, who were born in Newfoundland, do not view Newfoundlanders as an ethnic group;

Most white post-secondary youth do not view Newfie as an ethnic slur nor do they find Newfie jokes offensive; however, their opinion would likely change depending on the context in which the term is used or the joke is told;

Most view Canada’s response to the Syrian Crisis as positive but there is obviously a generational divide. Respondents noted that their parents/grandparents are more likely to express a negative perspective regarding Canada’s response than their peers.

The perspectives on the Syrian Crisis found among their peers on social media varied from highly positive to highly negative.

See the full report here.

Harris Centre Applied Research Fund
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Cultural integration
Industry Sectors 
Educational Services
Start date 
1 Jan 2016
End date 
31 Mar 2017