By JENNIFER LANNAN EMEKOBA
In the Aug. 30 Driftwood, there was an article regarding the cancellation of the SD64 Anti-Racism Advocacy Working Group (ARAWG). I’ve been monitoring the responses to this article virtually and in public and was disturbed to learn (at the point of writing this) of only one online group post and one letter to the editor in the following week’s edition of the paper.
Inaction is a problem. A problem for you, yours and mine; for the children I birthed and the love of my life; for the people in your neighbourhood and your extended family; for the students raised in the school district, the educators within it, and for all the hearts and souls wanting to do more and better. Where are all the supposed allies that supported Black Lives Matter rallies and anti-racism groups, and the beautifully crafted responses to important discussions for the public to see? Are you there now?
The cancellation of the ARAWG isn’t insignificant. The Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) members of Salt Spring Island are in fact growing in number and more should be expected from organizations, employers and the members of our community. Our governance systems and school district are behind the times in anti-racism and BIPOC representation. Look around — who do you see? What do see? Is a banner on the SD64 website actually accepted as sufficient?
I don’t come to the table as a BIPOC person, but I do stand as a white person with a Black family and the lack of respect from SD64 that I feel for my family and people in the BIPOC community means that I won’t be silent.
I started this school year with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart as I wonder how committed SD64 is to creating a healthy environment for black and brown bodies in this very white place. There have been countless incidents of harm towards all individuals and families of colour in and out of school in this community. Anyone learning this should be uncomfortable, sit in that discomfort and think about making a step in a new direction.
I did not witness as much as others, but the ARAWG was a space for having important discussions about incidents that happened near and far. It was an example of what should be happening in our communities, workplaces and governance systems. Cancelling the group without deliberation and no plans for next steps is like slamming the brakes as you’re about to crash your car into a tree, then deciding to turn off the air bags just to see what happens.
I have to ask community members to look deep within themselves regarding SD64’s choices. Efforts to advance student and SD64 community development in areas such as information technology, physical education and arts would never be taken away, so why the complacency with cancelling anti-racism work? I doubt the district would cancel committees and working groups for the 2SLGBTQIA+ population and supporters without notice, so why should dismissal of issues for the BIPOC community be tolerated?
Our society is only as strong as the people most disinvested. Look at the state of our community and that can be seen in so many directions and rings true here.