TDSB to offer anti-Black racism course for Grade 12 students at 7 schools next year
Course inspired by protests following killing of George Floyd last year, teacher says
The Toronto District School Board plans to roll out a new anti-Black racism course for Grade 12 students at seven secondary schools in September.
Thirty more schools are interested in offering the course.
The interdisciplinary course, Deconstructing anti-Black Racism in the Canadian and North American Context, is being taught this year at Newtonbrook Secondary School in North York as a pilot. D. Tyler Robinson, one of four Black teachers who developed the course, said they were inspired by the street protests that erupted after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.
Robinson said the four were told by students that they felt their Blackness was a burden and they didn't want to be Black anymore after seeing the video of Floyd's death.
"It spurred us to action, so we chose to get together and create something that could make things a little better," Robinson told CBC Toronto on Tuesday.
The course explores language and discourse, Black history, deconstructing and defining Blackness in the media, and oppression. In the final project, the students are asked to do something in response to what they have learned.
Robinson said the teachers knew they had to turn those feelings around and build confidence, deepen understanding of anti-Black racism and deconstruct it, and develop an appreciation for the "value, integrity and humanity of all people."
"A course like this should become a ministry mandated course in the senior grades, in Grade 11 and 12," he said.
"We think that, if 20 years from now, every student who comes out of a high school in Ontario understands anti-Black racism and as a result of that understands racism and anti-oppression and critical race theory and critical thinking in general, we think our society will be in a far better position. This is education as a transformative thing."
Robinson said the course also arose out of concern about the academic outcomes of Black students.
"We have always known that this work needed to be done," he said. "We always knew that there needed to be more time and space to try to do something to address those lower outcomes."
WATCH | CBC's Ali Chiasson reports on a new course being piloted by the Toronto District School Board:
Last Thursday, however, at an event organized by a subcommittee of the parent council at Clairlea Public School, Robinson and others were subjected to a racist attack in the form of a Zoom bombing when they were trying to talk about the course.
Several people hacked into the Zoom room where Robinson was presenting. He was interrupted many times. The hackers played music videos, including a clip from Welcome To The Jungle by Guns N' Roses.
We are calling on all parents, educators, and civic-minded citizens to help us push this message forward. The TDSB seems ready to work with us. What creates change tho, is when <a href="https://twitter.com/Sflecce?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Sflecce</a> and the Ministry of Education takes action. <a href="https://t.co/wQ5wAaXCIh">https://t.co/wQ5wAaXCIh</a> <a href="https://t.co/ATQENQ7OQB">pic.twitter.com/ATQENQ7OQB</a>—@DTylerRobinson1
In response, Robinson posted a letter on Twitter that said the teachers are not deterred by the attack.
"We are not intimidated by those 15+ accounts that infiltrated the Jan. 28 meeting of a small public school's Parent Council Sub-Committee on Equity, then waited 30 minutes in anonymity and cowardice, before beginning a targeted, coordinated, anti-Black racist attack, intended to prevent us from speaking of the need for a Ministry-mandated course pertaining to these issues," the letter reads.
"We see the irony of personally experiencing overt and covert racism, as we push for a course that creates the appropriate time and space to engage young people in rooting out racism."
The TDSB said it is investigating the attack.
Robinson told CBC Toronto that the assault shows that more needs to be done to address systemic racism. He said it was "jarring" and "uncomfortable."
"It's an attack on the work that we're trying to do."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Alison Chiasson