WATCH — Racism in schools must stop, teen activist says

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-11-20 07:00

Concerns vary from ‘microaggressions’ to police in schools

As a Black girl, Haleluya Hailu says she doesn’t always feel safe or comfortable in school.

The 17-year-old from Surrey, B.C., told CBC Kids News she’s looking to change that.

“The right I'm fighting for is safe education, emotionally, for people who don't feel very represented in our schools.”

Haleluya, whose family is originally from the East African country of Ethiopia, talked about indirect and subtle acts of racism, called “microaggressions,” that chip away at her self-esteem.

“A microaggression isn't something that's, like, big or loud. It's a tiny thing that's hurtful,” Haleluya said.

She described a white person reaching out to touch her hair without asking — treating her natural hair as though it were weird or abnormal.

Then there are more complex issues, like the presence of police officers in schools.

“Historically, police have not always treated everybody equally,” Haleluya said, adding that people of colour have suffered as a result.

In early 2020, Haleluya joined a student movement to convince the Burnaby School District to cancel the program that places officers in school hallways.

Similar protests have succeeded in other places in Canada, despite concerns that removing police from schools could also hurt students in some way.

Click play to watch Haleluya tell her story in her own words:

Interested in watching more profile videos featuring Canadian teen activists? Check out these links:

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Ben Nelms/CBC, graphic design by Allison Cake/CBC

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