Sunday, November 18, 2007

Racism by any other name: a letter to Royson James

Royson James writes for the Toronto Star. He covers the City Hall beat, usually, but has taken an interest in an issue that has recently popped up in Toronto: the notion of an "Afrocentric" alternative school.

You see, some folks feel that the cure-all for gangs and drop-out rates amongst "black" teenagers (in this day and age, someone needs to define "black" to me, by the way) is to give them the opportunity to attend a school where the curriculum revolves around African culture and history. (All this cropped up within days of a provincial election in which the people made it crystal clear they do not support faith-based schools.)

I can't tell you how much this troubles and disgusts me. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: racism is bad, period.


I don't have the time nor energy to go into it all here. I just want to point out an article Mr. James wrote and a quick reply I drafted and sent to him. I was so frustrated with what I read that I had to write something. Here's the article.

Here's my letter to him:

Mr. James:


Get beyond your preconceived notion that a racist is a white, southern redneck with a pitchfork in his hand; a racist is someone who discriminates between races. This is what you do and suggest the TDSB do by creating a race-based alternative school.


"Let's try something new." Are you insane? What is new about segregation and racism? Dr. King is spinning in his grave, I am sure.

And why is it that if there are gangs and if kids are dropping out of school that it's the school's fault? That the school system is broken and failing? And that it's failing because it doesn't cater to African culture? What about Latin culture or Asian culture? Why aren't Asian kids dropping like flies?

Maybe, just maybe, the reason kids in Flemington Park are more likely to die violently than to go to college - as your favourite quote seems to suggest - is not because they didn't have a black teacher or study the history of Zaire, but because they live in Flemington Park. Perhaps we should be looking to the City of Toronto or the Province of Ontario to help solve these issues with more social funding and infrastructure; more sports teams, more social events. How is it that dividing people by race is a better solution than bringing them together?

You applaud Dari Meade's statement: "We need that kind of special caring that white teachers in the white schools give to white kids ... people who are going to go the extra mile in caring about educating black kids." That statement is racist to the core and is extremely troubling. So let me get this straight: we're accepting for a fact that white teachers give preferential treatment to white kids? Why? The only logical conclusion is that the person making this statement believes a teacher cannot help but feel more empathy for a student of their own race. Why would someone believe this? Because they feel that way themselves. Do you really want to support the statements of a racist? (By the way, what does it matter if the school is not exclusive to "black" students? If, by your own argument, the black teachers will treat the black kids better than the "white" kids - just as white teachers NATURALLY treat white kids better - why would anyone else attend?)

I went to a high school in the north of Brampton. There was a great mix of students. The neighbourhood was largely south/southeast Asian and Caribbean, with many Italian students busing in from Caledon East and Bolton. The faculty reflected a cross-section of Canadian backgrounds. What's wrong with that?

"Eurocentric"? What is that, exactly, pray tell? We didn't study European history, we studied Canadian history. Yes, there's a difference. Granted, we studied Shakespeare in English class - a Brit, yes,'s Shakespeare.

But I digress. My intention here is to outline how repulsive the idea of a race-based school is - whether you call it a "black-focused" school or an "Afrocentric school". Doesn't matter.

And anyone who supports such a school is, by definition, a racist.

Give your head a shake.

Racism is bad.


No exceptions.


Anonymous said...

vary good spot on!! spot on !!

diane said...

i do agree with you - to a point. but it's good to see and hear how many people have been discussing this.