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Karen Murray, OCT

By Laura Bickle
PHOTO: kc armstrong

Karen Murray, OCT

The Black Lives Matter Movement has prompted many institutions — schools included — to examine how they can better address racism and bias. That's why the Ontario College of Teachers has appointed Karen Murray, OCT, to lead the development of its new Additional Qualification (AQ) guidelines on anti-Black racism.

"It is important for educators to understand that the work to disrupt long-standing systemic racism in education is everyone's work," says Murray, who is the centrally assigned principal for Equity, Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression at the Toronto District School Board. She has been an instructor for the Teacher Leadership AQ highlighting equity leadership and was on the writing team for the Inclusive Classroom AQ.

We asked Murray to share the goals of the new AQ.

Why is a deeper understanding of and commitment to anti-racism important for Ontario schools?

Reports such as Carl James and Tana Turner's (2017) Towards Race Equity in Education have shared an overwhelming amount of data on the negative impact of education on Black identities. But no one was truly listening. It took a tragic event — the death of George Floyd in the U.S. and the subsequent response to it — to move many educators in Canada to want to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of race and racism on the lives of Black Canadians. Anti-Indigenous racism and anti-Asian racism is also prevalent and it is our collective responsibility to tackle all of these injustices.

What will the new AQ address?

This AQ will focus on the impact of anti-Black racism in education with a focus on the rights and responsibilities of educators to disrupt this practice. This AQ will provide strategies and tools for implementation within a classroom and school context.

Why is the AQ important?

Addressing racism in school communities is necessary as the impact has long-standing generational implications.

What impact do you think this AQ will have for learners?

We want to develop learners who can understand, name and disrupt injustices. We want learners to be able to tackle racism and in doing so make transformational change to their world. We want students to be able to see themselves in the curriculum, as part of their school culture, where there are real spaces for them to grow as learners. Teaching and talking about the experiences and contributions of the Black identity will no longer be relegated to only specific times of the year.

Who do you hope engages with this AQ course?

This course is not only for Black or racialized educators, but for all educators. Anti-Black racism continues to persist because many educators fundamentally believe that dismantling this system of oppression is only the work of those who work with historically marginalized communities. When, in fact, it is all of our work.