September 14, 2020
The Affect Systemic Racism In Our Schools has on Immigrant Kids
I am a Black Immigrant woman and I am in gross denial of all the obvious racial biases that challenge our daily lives and even our kids!
In the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in America after the murder of George Floyd- a heightened awareness has been raised on both Individual and Systemic Racism – like never before. This awareness is on the rise in America, Canada and in fact all over the world. This injustice and discrimination has sparked lots of protests in major cities around the world as well as conversations about racial bias on mainstream media.
As a black Immigrant in Canada, I have always brushed racism aside and pretended it does not exist and even made excuses for it and advised both my friends and myself to adjust to the dictate of systemic racism. I had to watch the protests live on TV and watch Oprah’s conversation on Apple TV before I was able to agree these issues exist and should be addressed.
I am very happy to see that I am not alone in this journey of adjustment to criticism, racial bias and discrimination against black people like myself. We experience this on a daily basis- we have come to live with it and it is pathetic. We have not only adjusted to our realities and educated ourselves on how to survive the system but it has trickled down to affect our children as well.
The extremes are police brutality, biased criminal justice systems as well as under-representation of Black people in mainstream media. If anything is being said about Black people on TV- we are typically portrayed as aggressive, criminals as well as dumb. This is both untrue and unfair. I was once reading an article on Quora and someone submitted with so much glee and authority that it has been established by some surveys that Black people are born with low IQ –ouch! That hurts – deeply indeed. I graduated top of my class with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and have worked in black-owned, globally affiliated companies for more than 15 years in Information Technology – Operations & Strategy. I have mingled with so many highly intelligent and successful Black men and women. Reading that Black people are born with low IQ online made my spirit sink – why do people think this way?
Well, the intent of this article is not to dig into the issues of Systemic Racism as it affects adults but rather children. Yes, sadly, this Racial Bias pandemic trickles down and it exists day to day in our schools – even in Canada. We moved to Canada in 2016 and we had zero intention to educate our kids about racism – We would have if we were moving to America or Europe – but we felt no need to address this threat in Canada. It makes me sad to agree that it exists in Canada and so many children of Immigrants are affected.
I observed that people of colour have zero representation on the big screens. Most white parents do not have Black friends and they do not hang out whether kids school or in their neighbourhood. This had created a knowledge gap for their own kids because these kids unfortunately go to schools with Black kids in their classes and they have no idea how to interact with them or realize that it is okay to be different.
They begin to wonder why Black kids are different and in fact call them weird or refuse to interact with them because they have a different accent or even dress differently. They are unable to connect and make friends with Black kids because they believe they are “weird”. I personally took it upon myself to rain check my own kids everyday – to understand what they are going through during school time and in fact shocked about the series of racist comments and backlash they receive almost daily. I have had to coach them and encourage them and give them lectures to make sure they don’t lose themselves to the negative effect our system has created, which is unhealthy for children of colour to grow with.
My constant shadowing of my kids has helped them a lot – this made me wonder how other mums like me are faring? I reached out to a couple in my circle and was alarmed to know that so many of them are losing it! They don’t know how to deal with this racial pandemic. One mum shared that she had to send her daughter back to their home country because she could not deal with the frequent name-calling in school – this is not even High School- why should a child in Elementary school in Canada be dealing with such a monstrous enemy as this? Another mum shared that she has found suicide notes in her daughter’s backpack because some kids in school told her she looked weird especially her hair. Another mum shared that her son’s teacher is constantly activating disciplinary actions for the most unreasonable things – she is suspecting the teacher is racially biased. Yes! All of these and more are happening in our school systems in Canada! And we need to do better.
I have noticed that like myself, we are all on a journey of self-discovery and identifying our biases and are open to deal with them. Up until now, I could not agree these things are real! Even as a black person, I was in denial!!! So how do we do better?
- Deal with our racial bias: We need to first identify the issues and admit they exist – then take a step further by dealing with them. Self-educate on how to deal with our racial biases – there are thousands of books on Amazon that provide information on how to handle this. So many podcasts are also addressing this issue. Oprah’s Conversations on Apple TV did it for me! I had a lot of “ah-ha” moments and even cried while watching some of the episodes.
- Introduce our kids early to the concept of racism– I have heard so many times that nobody is born a racist, while this is somewhat true, not discussing racial issues and biases with our kids equally does the same damage as they grow up to meet other people of other races in life and they have absolutely no idea how to treat them. Introducing materials, books, movies, even toys that have representations for all races and colours will help our kids accept other races easily. Be open to having Black friends and hang out with their kids as well in a safe environment.
- It is not enough to say you are not racist – be antiracist: I am beginning to realize that taking conscious actions to deal with racial issues and biases is more important than just saying you are not racist. If you are with a Black person, do you feel you are superior or better than them? Do you feel the need to protect them or ashamed to have to feel the need to protect them? Do you accept and believe your association with a black person is a golden ticket to validate their existence? I have met a number of people that claim to not be racist but flaunt their white supremacist at every opportunity possible- that in itself a racist act. Being antiracist is knowing and believing that all men are equal regardless of the colour of their skin. Feeling that you have the power to protect a Black person or person of colour around you need to be thoroughly checked and dealt with. You can lend your voice to support our cause, you are welcome to be our friend but you shouldn’t come as a superior friend and ally.
- Educate kids on Black History and Black Culture: Canada has done a great job by celebrating Chinese Holidays and Indigenous Days in our schools. They should take it a step further by introducing Black Culture and History in our curriculum. Talk about what happened in the 1800s, how slave trade was abolished and why. What does Black Lives Matter mean? Why are Black people agitated and screaming for justice and equality? The City of Vancouver recently approved and recognized August 1 as Emancipation Day. This will be the second province after Toronto to do so. According to history, Slave trade was abolished in Canada on August 1st 1834. To declare August 1st as Emancipation Day throughout Canada affirms and underpins our cultural reality for ourselves and the world.
- Say No to Employment Discrimination: When you refuse to hire a person of colour, you are forcing and keeping Black kids on the border line poverty level with lesser chances to get a good education. So many immigrants have to change their name to a more English sounding name when they move abroad, even in Canada, to get a chance to a job interview, it does not have to be this way.
- Support Black-Owned Businesses: One thing I love about Canada is, they encourage buying locally. However, a lot of black businesses are suffering because they have limited opportunities and a social network of support. Most immigrants do not have families here and it is known to be 10x harder to start a business as an immigrant. You can make a lot of difference by patronizing black-owned businesses.
I can go on all day, but I hope I have been able to touch a little on this burning topic. I hope we are all able to do better and do our part in flattening the curve of Racism and Racial bias pandemic.
Thank you for reading and I will like to hear from you – please drop me a comment below.