Anti-Black Racism Joint School Council Letter

Joint School Community Letter – Jackman School Council, supported by Jackman Ave JPS Administration:

Jackman’s Parent Equity Committee stands firmly against anti-Black racism in all its forms. As a group of parents, we reaffirm our commitment to anti-Black racism and stand in solidarity with Black parents, caregivers, staff, and administrators at Jackman and throughout the TDSB. The recent protests and events that have unfolded in the United States and in Canada, are part of a long, painful, and on-going struggle against anti-Black racism. As parents and caregivers of children in elementary school, it is often said that we are our children’s first role models. We can use this position to work towards dismantling systemic racism, speaking up and deepening our knowledge and understanding of race and racism in Canada and beyond. Helping children make sense of the world around them begins by supporting their critical thinking skills beyond this moment in time.  Dismantling racism is hard work.  Racism is a system, not an event, but it is also a “socialized condition that begins in our homes and hides behind how we see others and in the implicit and explicit biases we must all confront and address”. 

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.  —James Baldwin

Jackman Ave JPS is deeply committed to dismantling any systems and processes that exist in our school which are rooted in Anti-Black Racism. Through our context of public education, we have influence over the information that is shared in our classrooms, and it is incumbent upon us to reduce the negative effects of implicit bias on Black students. 

At Jackman Ave JPS, student voice and agency are supported through professional student-educator relationships. Black students need to be heard and seen and have their identities and experiences validated through the curriculum, processes, and policies. As a staff, Jackman Ave JPS will engage in robust, uncomfortable, and challenging conversations to ensure student voice is centred in decision-making processes to move beyond the status quo in Teaching and Learning. Jackman educators must be a part of creating new norms.

Jackman Ave JPS and Jackman School Council will continue to plan and work collaboratively in our next steps together in this process of unlearning to reconcile, restore, and rebuild our system to reduce the replication of racial inequalities and prejudices based not only on race but within the intersectionalities of class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and Indigenous stereotypes. We invite your active participation in our transformational work.

To support parents and children with meaningful conversations we have pulled together some resources ( by no means is this list exhaustive) as well as some FAQs  that we hope can help support on-going conversations in your homes:  

FAQs:

1) What is anti-black racism?

Anti-Black racism is prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping or discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and colonization. Anti-Black racism is deeply embedded in Canadian institutions, policies and practices, to the point that it becomes a part of our systems.

https://files.ontario.ca/ar-2002_anti-black_racism_strategy_en.pdf

2) What is systemic racism?

Systemic Racism is the subtle discrimination that is built into the cultural memories of our laws and institutions that isn’t overtly designed to maintain racial power dynamics, but works to keep them in place anyway. 

Importantly, the beliefs and actions of individuals within a society don’t have to be racist for an institution or society they represent to be racist on a systemic level. The assumptions of racism are ‘baked-into’ the society in issues of educational and economic inequality and inequality of access. 

For example, the same laws or standards apply to people of all races in Canada, but just as a couple of examples:

Black and Indigenous children are more likely to be removed from the family home than white children with the same or similar circumstances

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/interrupted-childhoods

Black and Indigenous children are less likely to be streamed into academic vs. applied secondary school programs 

https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/black-students-still-face-major-hurdles-getting-into-university/
https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/black-students-still-face-major-hurdles-getting-into-university/

Black and Indigenous  are more likely to be penalized more harshly than whites for the same offences 

https://johnhoward.ca/blog/race-crime-justice-canada/

3) What does BLM mean?

At its heart, BLM is about recognizing that police, civilian misconduct or racially-motivated violence resulting in the death of a black person has gone unpunished or ‘swept under the rug’ too often and for too long. When these crimes, often the result of excessive-use-of-force (or abuses of stand-your-ground laws in the US) are minimized or go ignored by authorities, the message is that black people are guilty until proven innocent and that their wrongful death or murder is acceptable. 

If a white teenager was killed by cops because he was jogging in a hoodie like Trayvon Martin, or a white father was slowly choked to death by police while handcuffed merely because he was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill like George Floyd, the consequences would be swift and exacting. But because these men were black, authorities only saw fit to act appropriately after massive public protests forced them into acting. The implication is that other lives matter by default, but black lives only matter if there is video evidence and an overwhelming public response

4) Why can’t “all lives matter” mean “all lives matter”? 

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to talk about which ‘colours’ of life matter at all. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where goes without saying that most lives matter, but black lives are too-often treated as disposable until someone demands that they are valued. ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter, it means Black Lives Matter isn’t a given the way it should be, and that needs to change.

Saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is a lovely sentiment if sincerely felt. But it refutes or minimizes the point that it is black lives that are being devalued based on racist stereotypes and institutional discrimination. When you repeat that phrase, you are aligning yourself with people who really, really want to avoid confronting that reality. That means things stay exactly the way they are now, and we can keep mourning these incidents as ‘one-off tragedies’ without addressing the why they keep happening.

Resources for parents:

Ontario Human Rights Commission: Call it Out 

Afua Cooper, The Hanging of Angelique

Robyn Maynard, Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present 

https://www.cityline.tv/video/5-programs-to-watch-to-better-educate-yourself-on-racial-injustice/

http://www.childrenscommunityschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/theyre-not-too-young-1.pdf

Resources for Kids:

CBC Kids: https://www.cbc.ca/kidsnews/post/watch-what-canadian-kids-should-know-about-blacklivesmatter

Where to find books;

Canadian 

A Different Booklist: https://www.adifferentbooklist.com/?q=h.tviewer&using_sb=status 

CBC YA novels; https://www.cbc.ca/books/6-canadian-books-for-younger-readers-to-check-out-during-black-history-month-1.5032987  

Canadian  Children’s Boon Centre: https://bookcentre.ca/theme-guide-black-history-month https://bookcentre.ca/theme-guide-black-history-month 

American:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/06/app-news-section/cnn-sesame-street-race-town-hall-app-june-6-2020-app/index.html

https://www.embracerace.org/resources/where-to-find-diverse-childrens-books  https://www.embracerace.org/resources/where-to-find-diverse-childrens-books

Of potential Interest- Anti-Black racism at Queen Victoria Elementary School;

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/black-teachers-tdsb-school-racism-1.5547761

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2020/05/26/ding-dong-the-witch-is-gone-black-parents-aghast-over-racist-letter-to-vice-principal-force-changes-at-tdsb.html