Edmonton has been beset with a plethora of uncomfortable attacks on black and Asian women in recent times. Recently, Diversity Magazine held a Community Town Hall on Racism and Bullying in Schools after a junior high school boy was badly beaten by a gang of seven white boys in Rossyln, Edmonton. Up to 120 people attended the community Town Hall as tension levels has risen in Alberta since a video of the assault was circulated online. The video brought out the deepest fears of every black Albertan. Whilst Alberta has a documented history of racism here, here here, and here, most people erroneously assume that racism does not exist in Alberta.
Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iverson said “systemic racism and racist behavior is unfortunately still part of our community and we still have a tremendous amount of work to do to call it out”.
There were people from Calgary on the call as the need to work together rose above petty geographical sentiments.
What does racism look like in schools?
Racism takes different forms.
The experience is mostly subjective and we need to learn to listen to our children. As parents, we face micro aggressions at work and it tells on our stress levels. Our children don’t necessarily have the skills and the fortitude to fight racism. As parents, we need to hear when our child has repeated headaches or does not want to go to school. We need to have conversations about what racism looks like with our children arming them with tools to fight it. A healthy self esteem lies at the heart of defeating the pain inflicted by racism.
In some schools, racism takes the structural and established format of removing black kids from spaces where meaningful learning is taking place. We hear that black students are sent to gym for sports whilst the white half of the class are learning Maths and Science. This kind of damage is difficult to hear or even rationalize. The only way we can understand this is through the lens of racism.
Racism is never kind
For some of our kids, racism is being sent out of the class even when you have not done anything wrong. For others, racism is stiffer punishment that what is borne by their white counterparts. Racism entrenches a dimension of inadequacy within our children. Racism is that subtle system that denigrates the melanin in our skin associating black or brown skin with evil. Because there is a chronic lack of diversity in our schools, some teachers are culturally insensitive. Our children need to be taught that they can become teachers/doctors/lawyers/accountants/architects if they choose to and not just sports engineers.
Most of us have had a brush with racism being melted against our children in schools. Whilst some stories are disheartening and difficult to hear, nothing good ever comes out of racism. Discrimination based on the color of one’s skin is traumatizing for everyone involved- children and adult alike. The Black community are rarely unified. In this instance, we are unified. We can identify with the pain of Pazo’s family. Pazo is our son, brother, nephew and in this context, we are all one with Pazo.
But, there is hope
There is a need to hire and support a diverse pool of teachers. We do not know how to call out racism in schools echoed a parent. Schools don’t reflect the community. Nicholas Brown said that the video cut him deep. He implored parents to get involved in the school system, to be present in the school with their children. We have to be known, not just a voice on the phone. We know this is a problem because black people work most of the time. Most of us work two or three jobs. So, there is no time to effectively parent our children.
We need to get involved
Trent Daley, a community activist talked about the intersectionality of issues. Whilst noting that police and school boards are not representative, he spoke about the increase in hatred for Black and Asian women.
It was inspiring when Fedorah, a 14 year old, told the group that she was happy to help our children as they face issues of racism and discrimination in their schools. Dr. Unati urged the medical community to be visible as she urged parents to consider that some children who were naturally active were diagnosed with ADHD. The President of the Zimbabwean Community, Siba Khumalo, spoke to the lack of representation in boards that matter. We need seats on boards that matter she urged.
The way forward is to get involved.
If this is of interest to you, we encourage you to support Pazo here.
Can we conclude this?
It is unlikely that racism will be eradicated in our life time. So, we need to educate ourselves, our children and our friends of the dangers of racism. We need to support our children in the school system. In addition, we need to do all we can to call racism out. Prayers are needful, but we need more than prayers. We need an activism around our children that is centered on their future. After all, we came to Canada for a better life. Where is that better life?
We can be proud of our collective actions for Pazo but this is just the beginning.
Where do we go from here?
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Image Credit: Science News for Students