Students have planned a school walkout on Thursday to draw attention to alleged recent racist incidents inside Calgary Catholic School District classrooms and demonstrate against systemic racism in the education system.
As students stand in solidarity with peers across the city, the goal is to create a safer learning environment for all youth.
A white CCSD employee at Bishop McNally High School used the N-word talking to students in a recently surfaced video, according to a press release issued by the Calgary chapter of Black Lives Matter on Wednesday.
It marks the second time in a week a racist incident like this has happened, BLM said. Four students were suspended from St. Michael School for recording their principal saying the N-word, according to CBC News.
“Using that word from a place of privilege is hate speech,” BLM said.
“It is oppression, and the conversation around not saying it has gone on long enough without any consequences for perpetrators. This is especially egregious in a school setting with its power dynamics and paternalistic figures and its role in developing and educating our children.”
“When will the trauma of racism be more important than protecting white people’s reputations and comfort?” BLM said.
“What will the City of Calgary do to ensure Black children and people are safe to speak of the abuse they face?”
Racism is not new in Calgary, BLM said, but what’s novel is people being reprimanded for posting online about racism — for saying, “I am being harmed.”
“Racialized children have been saying this for as long as they have been here,” BLM said.
“The response they have received has taught them that they do not matter. Children are dying because they are living in a nightmarish cycle of gaslighting and harassment, being told to behave in the face of someone else’s violence when they are not being protected by our institutions.
“This must end now.”
CCSD responds to allegations
While CCSD chief superintendent Bryan Szumlas said he couldn’t discuss specific situations due to privacy concerns, he said: “We apologize and our hearts go out to any student or staff member ever impacted by systemic racism.”
“We take every situation seriously and will investigate each individually to ensure a positive outcome that aligns with our faith,” he said in a statement.
“We will continue our work in education around racial justice and are looking at ways for students to feel safe in reporting any instances of racism, bullying, harassment and discrimination.”
Demonstration planned for Thursday
Anyone in any school board can participate in the walkout planned for Thursday at 10 a.m.
Students reached out to Sankofa Arts and Music Foundation — a non-profit organization in Calgary that works with marginalized diverse youth using art as a tool for social change — to quickly plan the demonstration.
“It beautiful to watch them take charge and bring awareness to challenges that they are facing in the school system,” executive director Marion Ashton said Wednesday.
Ashton said the walkout isn’t meant to be a protest but rather an opportunity for students to voice their concerns and have conversations about race in schools.
She wants the education minister and school boards to take ownership for their roles in these harmful incidents.
“We have seen too many of these videos,” Ashton said, adding that she is fed up with the misunderstandings and the miseducation of Black Canadian youth in the “trauma zone” — what she calls school.
Authority figures using the N-word is irresponsible and completely disregards the experience of Black children, Ashton said, explaining she is disgusted that adults don’t know the impact of their words.
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