"Under no scenario should police be called to remove a 4-year-old [child] from a school in this Province" (Minister of Education, March 2022).
Yes, the Ontario Minister of Education actually had to make this statement. Mind-blowing is it not? A school resorted to calling the police to remove a 4-year-old child. Before you wonder what, the child did, let me ask a question. What could a 4-year-old child do to so endanger the lives of others that police intervention becomes necessary? As someone with full awareness of the particulars of this case, I can assure you that the little child had neither gun, nor any materials that could be used as a weapon. Yet, the teachers and administrators were so fearful that the police had to be brought in to rescue them.
Picture it! Adult teachers, the vice-principal plastered to corridor walls quivering, knees knocking, overwrought with fear at the approach of the villain. The principal running desperately, slipping and sliding, gasping for breath, looking over her shoulders. Finally, reaching the phone, she dials 911, fingers shaking, whispers frantically "police, help, save us". Cymbals and drums crash, ominous sounds of impending doom. Elementary school attack! Will any survive the prowling, weaponless ... 4-year-old child? The story would be laughable if it did not carry such dreadful stigma and lasting trauma for the child and family. Sadly, the story becomes conceivable when the 4-year-old in question is from the racialized, and especially the Black community.
A few things come to mind for African families to know. The first being a reminder that racism is deeply embedded in the Canadian system. Racism exists not just in the education system, but across institutions and is well entrenched in the policies. Advocacy is working, but the wheels of change are slow. For continental Africans who hope that this is not true, it is time to acknowledge what the leaders of our country and province have publicly recognized. "Even though we've made strides forward in the fight against racism and discrimination, racism still exists in Canada" (Prime Minister Trudeau, 2020). The 4-year-old Black boy, transforms from a child undergoing the developmentally appropriate process of gaining increasing socialization, under the guidance of nurturing kindergarten educators. That Black body instead becomes imbued with negative (of course) super powers, capable of devastating destruction, and especially when male, constituting a threat to society. This underlying social construction of Black men links directly to the grossly disproportionate representation of the population within the criminal justice system.
The second thing that comes to mind is the critical position of parents as protectors and advocates for their children. Collectivist cultures nurture a sense of trust in the extended community. In many African countries, when the school reports a child to the parents, there is trust that the goal is to help the child succeed. In this context, however, parents have to recognize that this is the same system that set out with intentionality to take the "Indian" out of the Indigenous children. I am not attempting to tar all teachers and administrators with one brush, but rather to point out that there are systemic structures in place that promote an intolerance for the cultural differences that African children bring to the classroom.