After blackface video 'wakeup call,' school board says new task force to be in place by fall
MONTREAL -- Saying it’s been jolted into action by a blackface video by two girls, the West Island’s English school board is creating a task force to come up with concrete steps to fight racism at school.
“The outcome of such a shocking display of racism is a real wakeup call,” said Noel Burke, chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
“It’s not something that anybody thinks could be ignored or minimized.”
Still, some are skeptical, waiting to see proof that it makes a difference come the fall.
The video that emerged last week showed two teenage girls in blackface, performing what sounds like a rehearsed production full of racist images and slurs. They attended a Pointe-Claire school, the board confirmed.
After the video circulated, Black teenagers from the same school spoke up to say that racist insults from other students are a given.
No charges will be laid against the girls who made the video, and the board has yet to decide if they’ll stay at their school or be transferred elsewhere.
But the board has now passed a motion about tackling racism among its students. It includes creating a task force made up of students, staff, commissioners and community members.
Their job is to come up with practical actions to fight racism and descrimination at school. The group will be in place by September 1, the board says.
The board already has policies banning racist actions at school—its “intercultural policy” has been in place since 2001—which makes some people wonder if the new push will make a difference.
“I’m just like, okay…the steps that you’re saying that you’re going to do with this new resolution are essentially what should have been established 19 years ago,” said teacher Sabi Hinkson.
Others are just hoping the task force brings in more voices than the board’s commissioners—who are not at all diverse.
“They need to really look at how they can get representation in those places, to really come up with something that works for everyone,” said Kemba Mitchell, the director of the West Island Black Community Association.
Officials say they hope the activities planned with the new motion will inspire people to speak out against discrimination when they see it.