Update the NL high school curriculum to include anti-racist books
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In light of the horrific police brutality faced by George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, protests, riots and overall outrage has sparked not just across the United States but internationally. The impact has not been limited to just those in Minneapolis and as a result many white people within my own community of Newfoundland and Labrador are beginning to reckon with the fact that racism is still alive and well in the age of 2020. However, it's important to recognize that anybody who has been shocked by the continued existence of racism has been ignorant to their part in a brutal prevailing system of white supremacy. Even those who have been aware, if they are viewing it as a collective white people thing without examining their individual impacts, they are part of the problem.
It's also important to note that NL, even with its reputation for being incredibly welcoming and friendly, is not exempt to racism. During our province's 2019 provincial election, MHA candidate for Mount Pearl-Southlands Hasan Hai received numerous racist comments and messages on Facebook from members of the Yellow Vests of NL, an anti-immigration group. (Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/hasan-hai-racist-facebook-comments-1.5023426 Just last week Canada's own Regis Korchinski-Paque suspiciously 'fell off her balcony' after police responded to a concerned mental health distress call from her family. (Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/regis-korchinski-paquet-toronto-1.5593718 A quick Google search of "racism in nl" comes up with numerous stories as recent as this year with examples of discrimination against people of colour. We of course also have a long and terrible history with Indigenous communities that could be better addressed in schools.
As a graduate of the NL education system in 2018, the only real conversation about anti-Black history that I experienced happened in my English 1201 class (tenth grade) where we read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and watched a documentary about the murder of Emmett Till. While I recognize TKAM's complicated history of being banned for its discussion of race issues, without greater conversation of how Atticus Finch contributes to a white saviour complex and how race issues continue to be prevalent just in new evolved ways that fit the times, these examples do little but amplify feelings of white guilt for white and non-black people of colour students. By a white saviour trope I mean that the book essentially shows that because Atticus Finch, a noble intelligent lawyer, decides the Black community of Maycomb is worth saving and valuable, they become so. This is thus implying that they had not been before.
I'm calling to merely include less stories about black lives through the lens of white people and to instead amplify works by Black authors such as James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, etc as well as ways white and non-black people of colour can combat racism within themselves and their communities. As a white woman I recognize that my role in the Black Lives Matter movement is to always continue to learn more, to call out other white people on their racial biases and most of all to sit and listen to the voices of Black people and other people of colour. I think it's important to teach these things in schools and while I do understand the sheer volume of the works available, I think it's for this reason there must be consultation with Black and people of colour leaders to decide how best to fit this into the provincial curriculum.
My social media feeds are filled in response to George Floyd with fellow white and non-black people of colour graduates who have been failed by their high school education on these issues. They want to help but are not sure of the ways how to or the varied and diverse history of these issues which has led to the spreading of a lot of performative activism and ignorance.
If you are one of these graduates who has been spreading stories on Instagram but are unsure of what else to do, it is your responsibility to further educate yourself perhaps starting with the books and authors below and donating to bail funds for protestors across the U.S. Regardless of age these are resources that are available for you. For future generations of students however, the government has a responsibility to educate better about these issues. Not everybody will pursue further education or end up in the Gender Studies or Sociology classrooms where these issues are discussed at length and are inaccessible to the vast majority of Newfoundlanders. I urge you to sign the petition to ensure these changes can happen.
I am asking the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do their part to address these issues from the inside, the education system. I don't believe I, a 19-year old white university student, am the authority of deciding how these curriculum changes take place. I do however hope the government will take my suggestion in updating the curriculum to better amplify anti-racist works such as:
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibran x Kendi
I also again strongly suggest that they do so in consultation with leaders of the Black community and others of colour. While of course, the focus is on Black works, I would also encourage the inclusion of works that better detail the reality of Indigenous issues such as:
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
There is a severe lack of understanding about Indigenous people within NL and as Canadians I see this as an important addition.
George Floyd was the straw that broke the camels back and just like Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castille, Eric Garner and endless others, he was not a victim of just a single bad cop or the exceptional case of racism. These are large and powerful deeply entrenched systems and until white people take responsibility for how they are contributing to them authentic change will be impossible. I urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do their part to ensure its high school students graduate better educated and for everybody else to do their own work and learning.
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