New advisory provides practical advice on how to recognize and address anti-Black racism in all learning environments.
By Olivia Yu
Diversity, equity and awareness are critical elements of every safe and supportive learning environment. But what does this look like for Black students and how can Ontario Certified Teachers (OCTs) overcome long-standing and historical legacies to break down deeply entrenched systemic barriers?
"It's important to remember that anti-Black racism is not new and has been embedded in the educational system for generations," says Amorell Saunders N'Daw, principal of Amorell & Co, partner at KBRS, where she is also the equity, diversity and inclusion lead, and the lead writer for the College's Professional Advisory on Anti-Black Racism. "The focus on its adverse impacts has been amplified and requires meaningful action and sustainable change."
The advisory defines racism as "a belief that one group is superior or inferior to others," adding that sometimes people do not even realize they have these beliefs. Therefore, anti-racism is the "active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racism, as well as the oppression and injustice racism causes."
It also states that the term Black began as "a social construct referring to people who have dark skin colour and/or other related racialized characteristics. [Over time,] the term has become less of an indicator of skin colour and more of racialized characteristics. Diverse societies apply different criteria to determine who is Black."
"The advisory is part of the College's ongoing and long-standing commitment to anti-oppression, equity and inclusion," explains College Registrar and CEO Dr. Derek Haime, OCT. "It encourages teachers to be comfortable being uncomfortable, to listen openly, honestly and without judgment, so that they can help drive positive change."
OCTs play an important and influential role in the learning environment and are uniquely positioned to help address anti-Black racism and its impact on students.
In November 2020, the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 was amended to recognize hateful remarks and behaviour as acts of professional misconduct. This change is reflected in the advisory, which aims to support all teachers — regardless of where they are in their careers. It helps to clarify professional responsibilities within the context of professional, employer and community standards, legislation and the law.
It urges OCTs to create safe spaces for students of African descent and their families to reach out to educators and discuss their academic program, and to actively listen to their concerns.
"Inclusive learning spaces provide students from all backgrounds with the security to speak up and authentically explore their curiosity," said the College's Transition Supervisory Officer, Paul Boniferro. "OCTs are known for their dedication to student care and learning, and the advisory will help them grow their awareness and understanding to further protect students and address systemic racism."
Reading in print? Refer to the advisory provided with this issue for more information on how to address anti-Black racism with students. You can also read the advisory online. For the College's complete list of professional advisories, visit oct.ca/resources/categories/professional-advisories.