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INTERVIEW


ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN EDUCATION AND BLACK STUDENTS NAVIGATING


THE PANDEMIC STEPHANIE FEARON IN CONVERSATION WITH BLACK QUEER MOTHER, CHILD AND YOUTH WORKER, PHD STUDENT AND RESEARCHER TANITIÃ MUNROE


STEPHANIE FEARON: You are a Child and Youth Worker, dedi- cated to serving youth who have been suspended and expelled, and also a parent. How do systemic forms of oppression play out in the schooling experiences of the students you work with? How has it affected your own children?


TANITIÃ MUNROE: Institutionalized racism has a long history in the Canadian education system and continues to create barriers for Black, Indigenous and racialized students. As early as the 1800s, policies were used to refuse admission of Black children into white schools. We had discriminatory laws upheld by the courts that legally enforced and maintained racially segregated schools. Literature, reports and personal narratives document the many ways early lega- cies of racism persist and negatively impact the present-day school- ing experiences of Black children. For example, Black students are disproportionately streamed into programs that limit their oppor- tunities for success in post-secondary education. As a parent of two children, who are now 23 and 20 years old respectively, I still recall advocating for my own daughter in high school. Her guidance coun- sellor recommended that she do hairdressing instead of pursuing her dream career as a marine biologist. Had I not been aware of how anti-Black racism operates in schools and possessed the tools to push back, my daughter would have been streamed into courses based on discriminatory and racist practices. She is currently a third-year


30 ETFO VOICE | WINTER 2020


university student in her Environmental Science program. It is with experiences like that of my daughter’s and many other students’, we can understand why in Ontario the graduation rate of Black second- ary students is below that of the overall student population. Further, Black students are hyper-surveilled within our schools.


The implementation and interpretation of policies around disci- pline profoundly shape the schooling experiences of Black students. Progressive discipline is practiced in ways that are inequitable. Data from Black communities, educational researchers and school boards document Black students’ harmful encounters with school disci- pline. Black students are suspended at rates higher than their peers. We must also focus on the emotional impact of racism on students. Many students are unable to cope with the racism or oppression they face. And it may manifest in different ways, such as feeling alienated, angry, confused and invalidated. All of these lead to stress and disrupt students’ emotional well-being.


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