Racism ambience at North Toronto: Still Prevalent and Strong
March 6, 2021
Hate culture of all forms, especially racism, has been experienced by 65.7% of NT students, according to a school-wide survey. The recent events involving a post by a student led page on social media proves the problem is here, and it is not going to go away until we do something.
When asked to describe their experiences, many students from different minority backgrounds claim to have been treated negatively by the school community. “Casual mocking of south asian accents, terrorist comments [not directed at me but still] a perpetuation of south asian stereotypes” said an anonymous respondent to our survey. Although every story is different, several students said that the most common situation that has happened is the use of racial slurs. For instance, those offending Black or Asian people are amongst the most common. Interestingly, numerous respondents explained that people said certain terms “by accident” and then “apologized” once they realized who was listening. Others shared that it was said jokingly and thought it was funny but never stopped to think about how their peers would feel. In the end, a lack of awareness towards race has created a culture that has resulted in jokes pushed past the boundary of what is morally right.
A major component to the racism at our school is from stereotyping. According to SimplyPsychology, stereotypes are “fixed, over generalized belief[s] about a particular group or class of people.” It also mentions that “by stereotyping [one] infer[s] that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that [one] assume[s] all members of that group have.”
From the movies released by Hollywood to the jokes thrown around at school, racial stereotypes surround us in our current society. Due to the prevalence of these stereotypes, we are exposed to the vast generalizations of different people from a very young age. This has resulted in a culture that continues to perpetrate archaic caricatures.
In an interview with an NT student, they discussed that stereotyping often occurs in “chatter” or “jokes” that they hear in conversations around them. In another interview, an NT student claimed that there were comments made about them “as an Asian [who has] mostly received comments about [their] academic performance.”
According to Vasko Panev, at the end of the day “it crosses over to the free speech argument,” when asked where the line is drawn for hateful language being a joke and becoming something serious. “If it harms someone and they are deeply, deeply offended then I can see how it would be wrong. But then once again it crosses over to the point about how I can say what I want because of free speech.” From our research looking at the Canadien Charter of human rights and freedoms; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, is a fundamental freedom. On the other hand, though, the charter also states; Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. “I believe there is a balance, but know the power of your words and actions,” says Abhijit Roy, a Procurement manager at Mercedes Benz Canada who spoke to us about his experiences being a leader of colour.
Discrimination based on race is not just a problem within NT but at several other schools across the TDSB. In July of 2020, an article published by CTV News reported on an incident at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute. According to the article, the former principal of the school was accused by a number of recent graduates of fostering a culture of anti-Black racism. One student who spoke about her conversations with the former principal mentioned that she allegedly threw around the n-word without even thinking about it. To add even more flame to the fire, the student reported this incident to the TDSB and then spoke to an equity rep within the board. After their conversation, she waited to hear back but never did. Later she found out that the rep was no longer working within the TDSB. In a similar incident reported on by the Toronto Star, the mother of a Black girl (at Glenview Senior Public School) filed a lawsuit in May of 2019 against the TDSB after her daughter was allegedly punched in the face, and was a victim of racist and sexist bullying by a white boy. As stated in the article, the claim said the girl reported the “verbal assaults and threats” to a guidance counsellor at the school, but no action was taken. Although the situation became very messy, the underlying issue of racism is the biggest issue here.
When compiling information for this article we wanted to get the full perspective from NT and therefore we contacted a few students at the school to share their experiences. One student who has asked to remain anonymous said “It’s just about the feeling of not belonging or blending in, with the majority of the student body, but that is on me for not going to a super diverse school.” Although NT’s diversity is questionable, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to make everyone feel welcome?