Statement on Recent Event Related to Systematic Anti-Black Racism
June 3, 2020
Dear ESE community:
Like many of you, we have spent the past week watching the ongoing escalation of tensions as the protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the U.S. continue. We have watched the news and social media accounts of the over-zealous responses of multiple levels of policing towards peaceful protestors. And we have all felt that knot in the pit of our stomachs churn and grow, as Black bodies are once again publicly on display for the violence Black folks are disproportionately subjected to. And while this pain and display occurs, Black activists, community leaders, and common everyday folk must again bear the weight of escalating demands for recognition and response to the systemic problems that leadership has failed to address with regards to police brutality and related violence of capitalism baked into the system.
The protestors, who have come together in the midst of a global pandemic the likes of which the world has not seen since the beginning of the 20th century, continue to put their lives in front of a militarized state that the U.S. President has demanded will bring order to the streets.
And while horrifying to watch, we must not be complacent to the fact that these are “America’s” problems. Canada too is a nation state built on genocide and slavery. And the ugly underbelly of ever-present racism manifests here in acts of police associated killings such as the deaths of 29 year old Regis Korchinsky-Paquet in Toronto in May, 26 year old D’Andre Campbell in Brampton in April, 36 year old Jason Collins and 16 year old Eisha Hudson in Winnipeg in April[i], the COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately impacted Black communities, as well as the ongoing over-representation of Indigenous women as targets of crime and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody[ii], and the dramatic increase in anti-Asian racism[iii] that has been revealed in the setting of the current global pandemic.
In response to these ongoing failures of the system to adequately address racism, we recommit ourselves to community and to education.
On community: we reaffirm our readiness to stand alongside our racially minoritized students, as well as racially minoritized staff and faculty. We recognize the disproportionate burden you bear and stand in solidarity with you as we work to fully see, disrupt, and ultimately dismantle the barriers of racism at the university and wider society. We also commit to working with our White students, staff and faculty colleagues to press for recognition of the racism that structures the university and our work within it.
On education: there is much evidence showing the institutionalization, the deep embeddedness, of racist paradigms in schooling (James, 1995[iv]; Schick, 2000[v]; Sefa-Dei, 1996[vi]). We recommit to embodying anti-racist and anti-oppressive pedagogies in our courses, and to decolonizing the curriculum in the texts we choose and the ways we encourage students to represent their learning.
Ultimately, as the Black sociologist Frederick Douglass said in an 1857 address, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” We recommit ourselves to both living up to and teaching up to Douglass’s words; and in doing so, both demanding and aspiring to embody the ideals of a pluralistic and just democracy that works for everyone.
Kumari Beck, Associate Professor & Coordinator (with Ö. Sensoy) Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education
Wanda Cassidy, Professor, Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education; Director, Centre for Education Law and Society
Ann Chinnery, Associate Professor, Equity Studies in Education graduate programs; Coordinator Educational Theory and Practice PhD program, Faculty of Education
Pooja Dharamshi, Assistant Professor, Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education
Sharalyn Jordan, Associate Professor, Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education
Ena Lee, Assistant Professor, Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education
Amy Parent, Assistant Professor Indigenous Education & Equity Studies in Education graduate programs; Member, Indigenous Education Reconciliation Council, Faculty of Education
Özlem Sensoy, Professor & Coordinator (with K. Beck) Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education; Associate Director, Centre for Education Law and Society
Suzanne Smythe, Associate Professor, Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education
Dolores van der Wey, Associate Professor Indigenous Education & Equity Studies in Education graduate programs, Faculty of Education; Episkenew Fellow, Disrupting Colonialism in Teaching (DCT) Program SFU
Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard
The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole
[ii] Statistics from Canada’s Department of Justice show that the victimization rate for Indigenous women in Canada was triple that of non-Indigenous women. Also that Indigenous peoples represent 30% of the population in custody, while they are only 4% of the general population. See: May 2019 report, “Indigeneous Overrepresentation in the Criminal Justice System: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/jf-pf/2019/docs/may01.pdf
[iv] James, C. E. (1995). Multicultural and anti-racism education in Canada. Race, Gender & Class, 2(3), 31–48.
[v] Schick, C. (2000). "By virtue of being White": Resistance in anti-racist pedagogy. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 3(1), 83–102.
[vi] Dei, G. J. S. (1996). Anti-racism education : theory and practice. Fernwood.