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your dreams? Young people have the capability, ability and desire to thrive. It is up to us to ensure that our practices and structures help nurture and expand their full potential.


STEPHANIE: I want to expand on this point around the work we need to do to create equitable school environments. What concrete actions can educators take now, during the pandemic, to help realize a school system free from oppression?


TANITIÃ: We are living a moment where many are demanding more accountability and calling for the veil to be lifted off the years of racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression that have become the norm within the education system. Educational professionals, students, families and stakeholders need to deepen their understanding of how historical, economic, socio-political and moral decisions and policies continue to harm particular communities. When developing and implement- ing action plans, educators must ensure they are concretely address- ing racism. COVID-19 has required educational institutions across the


province to revamp the ways they operate. It provides educators and stakeholders opportunities to engage in real reform that addresses the social and emotional needs of students most marginalized within the system. I believe that by working alongside students and stakeholders we can rethink relationships, assessments, infrastruc- tures, practices and structures in ways that lead to real reform – the dismantling of oppressions within schools.


STEPHANIE: You are also a doctoral student at the University of Toronto. Your research centres on the experiences of African, Afro-Caribbean and Black students and families in the educa- tion system. What are some resources and supports for educators who are interested in learning more and taking action against systemic forms of oppression in our public schools?


TANITIÃ: There are a number of easily accessible resources like books, literature, webinars and workshops. Many professional learning resources are now available virtually and on the internet. I am dedicated to the importance of educators actively doing critical self-reflection around the roles they play in perpetuating varying forms of oppression within their school communities. I especially


34 ETFO VOICE | WINTER 2020


challenge educators to abandon the idea of “colour blindness” and forms of multiculturalism that deliberately suppress conversations about race and racism in the school environment. I challenge us all to move away from sentiments of we don’t need to talk about race and racism in Canada and Canadians are good people. In so doing, it will allow opportunities for educators and stakeholders to further their understanding of the living legacy of colonization and racism towards Indigenous, Black and racialized people in this country. Anti-Black racism is part of the everyday experience of many


African, African-Caribbean and Black students and their fami- lies. Accordingly, it is pivotal that anti-racism training include work around racial literacy. It helps with the understanding that Black youth are not a monolithic group and should not be treated like one; their families comprise many ethnicities and ancestral nationalities. Racial literacy is a set of skills and practices used to recognize, respond to and counter forms of everyday racism present in our institutions. It supports educators and students to recognize racism as a contemporary reality and not just a historical problem and supports the development of language and practices that allow us to discuss race, racism and anti-racism. It provides us with skills needed to probe the existence of racism and examine the effects of race and racism on the education system. I encourage educators across the province to work with stakehold-


ers, such as students, educators, caregivers and community members, to co-develop intentional plans that marry racial literacy to the cur- riculum. As students are impacted daily by racism and other forms of oppression, it is vital that we deliberately create learning environ- ments where students consider the ways in which race and racism are influenced by factors such as class, gender and sexuality. COVID-19 reminds us all of the urgency of grounding our prac-


tice in racial literacy. I wonder how educational professionals might collaborate for student engagement in racial literacy. How might racial literacy support students’ access to the curriculum? What ana- lytical and rhetorical skills might students develop while practicing racial literacy? What changes in school communities might emerge with the practice of racial literacy? What steps must educators and stakeholders take to establish the necessary conditions for the devel- opment and practice of racial literacy in school communities? n Stephanie Fearon is a member of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto.


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