Anti-Black racism is not a ‘consensual schoolyard fight’
Last month a 14-year-old Black student at an Edmonton school was the victim of an attack. In a video, several boys physically attack the student and call him the N-word. The incident left the boy in hospital with a concussion. The assault on the student was clearly a racist act, something community members and his family underscored.
The Edmonton Public School District called the incident a “hate-filled attack” and have recommended expelling the perpetrators.
However, the Edmonton police called it a “consensual school yard fight.” Around 200 hundred people rallied outside the police headquarters in Edmonton, calling on the police to retract their statement and apologize.
The discrepancies between responses are not surprising. Police in Edmonton and across Canada have repeatedly misunderstood and stigmatized racialized communities.
A recent report on the death of Colten Boushie and the treatment of his mother called on police to address “out-of-date beliefs” which “take root in organizations and systems, influencing the way things are done.”
Racism and oppression are not only entrenched in policing, but also other institutions like our school systems.
Lack of diversity
Current hiring practices within school systems do not reflect Black, Indigenous or People of Colour communities.
Canada has limited data on racialized individuals.
Where communities have documented experiences of Black students, such as in the Toronto District School Board, these students have described the negative effects of anti-Black racism they encounter at school. Racialized data from the United States also tells us that compared to their peers, Black children are more likely to be treated differently within the education system.
When incidents occur, Black students are less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt or to be believed. They are more likely to be strictly punished for minor transgressions, mislabelled as troublesome, or believed to have learning difficulties.