Last week a TDSB teacher went to school in Blackface for Halloween.
You can read about it here.
Egregious enough on its own, it seems that complaints weren’t acted upon until the end of the day.
Think about that….
This means students of colour (the school in question was in a culturally diverse neighbourhood) were subjected to this disrespect and racism for most of the day. While their teachers and administration did…nothing?
Did they not know?
Even the morning assembly didn’t produce any eyebrow raises or comments (not strong enough anyway) from colleagues to suggest to the teacher that there was anything wrong.
What does this tell you?
It tells me the depth of lack of awareness that we have about Black culture, history, racism, and anti-Black racism.
Or, that there is lack of caring about or attention to it – and to the lived experiences of Black youth and children in our schools.
The History of Blackface
Blackface stems from a time when Black people were not allowed to perform on white stages. Not only did white performers play Black people on stage, Black people were further demeaned and dehumanized in these portrayals. You can read more about this here.
It’s possible the teacher didn’t know the history of Blackface.
This is problematic on its own – and underscores the gaps in curriculum and the white supremacy inherent in it (as well as our general societal awareness).
But even without that knowledge – surely he read the hoopla when our Prime Minister was called out about dressing in Blackface when he was younger….?
Or maybe, none of this mattered or “landed” because it was a “cool” idea.
One would hope someone teaching our children – especially someone teaching in a multicultural classroom – would know better.
But how can we expect this?
In a society that still appropriates Black, Indigenous and other non-white cultures.
In a country that is only now really starting to reckon with its past of genocide with regard to Indigenous People.
In a society – as Isabel Wilkerson writes in her book Caste – built on systemic racism?
Can we expect the people who teach our children to know better when white supremacy – as Layla Saad writes in her book Me and White Supremacy – is a system we are born into, that is designed to keep us unaware and asleep to it’s reality?
It is imperative.
Our children deserve better – all of them.
BIPOC children especially, but also non BIPOC children.
We have to have a broader and deeper understanding of humanity and it’s richness rather than the one-sided stories we have (mostly) heard until now.
For the safety of BIPOC children in our classrooms, for their success, and for the proper education of all students.
So that the world can heal.