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And whose dream was THIS…

Posted by on January 30, 2008

Today on my lunch on a beautiful Spanish afternoon I sat at my desk and loaded up the GlobeandMail.com to check out what was going on in my home and native land of Toronto, Ontario. As the home page appeared I had to refresh the screen just to make sure what I was reading was true. Click through below.

“Toronto trustees narrowly approve black school”

I also checked my surroundings to make sure I wasn’t sitting in a DeLorean and driven back to 1955. I went on to read every article I could find on the subject to see if any argument in favour of this new institution made any rational sense. I was not surprised to end my search more disturbed than when it began.

The proposal for this new “black school” came in response from the black community, who were concerned at the high dropout rate among kids of Caribbean descent.

In this blogger’s unsolicited opinion I see this new school as nothing more than plain and simple reverse segregation. Its difficult for me to refer to it as your ‘ol run of the mill segregation because that typically carries the notion of one party inflicting the act on the other. In this case a number of people in Toronto’s black community are choosing to segregate their own children which in turn also separates the parents further from the CANADIAN community. As mentioned in the article, Angela Wilson, who first proposed the idea to the board refuted that point with this garbled argument, “Its not about segregation, its about self-determination.” After reading that quote I had to check the heading to ensure I was still reading the same article as I’m sure this statement would have faired much better in another discussion. Perhaps vs. a deaf illiterate.

Another supporter of the idea claimed this act was “courageous” and that what black children need is to see themselves in their instructors and their curriculum. What is so courageous about this movement? No one is being oppressed, cheated, or discriminated against. No one is forcing black students to not do their homework, not study for tests, and eventually not attend altogether. I mean, I’ve failed a few classes in my day and I can tell you, it wasn’t because I was not being taught by Gino Italiano. Nor was it because I had to learn the difference between Upper and Lower Canada instead of the history of the unification of Italy, the country from which my bloodline runs.

In case everyone else in the province has forgotten, you live in CANADA. The parents, grandparents or whomever of these black children moved to Canada to give them a better life. To be Canadian. If you’re interested in your descendants and your heritage, if that’s what motivates you to learn…hey, here’s a whacky idea: Buy your child a god damn book. I’ve even heard a rumour that in most cities there are places with lots of them…for FREE. True story. Let me give you an idea about what my hopeful parents stuffed down my throat to learn about my heritage. Italian school. Nothing like being a 13 year old and having to take night school classes like a 54 year old dropout going for his GED. But even though I hated it, I learned about my heritage, I met kids from the same background and it was a great experience. The next day however, I would return to highschool where I had to (shutter shutter) learn to interact with people who WERE NOT like me. People that were from different races and backgrounds, and I had to learn to accept and co-exist with this community. I don’t mean to disgust anyone, but I actually became friends with some of those classmates.

The editor of the Globe and Mail also took time out of his editing day to respond to several questions on the topic. Though the majority of his answers were largely diplomatic and non-committal he did raise one fine point. Mr. Boyd mentioned that an equally strong argument could be made for a Portuguese focused school as their dropout rates are nearly as high as children born in the English-speaking Caribbean. But I’m absolutely positive that if that idea had been raised it would have been shot down more times than me on a lesbian cruise.

Has no one looked at the societal factors? Parents? Family income? Influences? The quality of the teachers and schools in which these kids are dropping out from? Has anyone taken the time to perhaps ASK these kids why they’re dropping out? If anyone has any answers to the above I would honestly love to know. Besides, if its the parents of these children that concocted this half-brained idea perhaps the coconut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It was not long ago that a great man stood up for what he believed in. He was courageous, he was brave, and his purpose needed the essence of self-determination. He said…

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That is obviously a very small excerpt from Martin Luthor King Jr.’s famous speech, given in a time where the black community fought for equal rights, freedom and equality. Perhaps my dictionary is outdated and Oxford forgot to send me the latest edition, but is either freedom or equality defined as the right to segregate your children from other races? Does it mean you have the right to teach your children that the people that live in your town and your neighbourhood have constructed an education system that has somehow handicapped them from achieving their potential?

I believe this new school is sending present and future generations the wrong message about co-existence and regressing into situations people have fought and died to prevent.

Next thing you know Toronto’s black community will be petitioning the bus company to section off the back of the bus because they’re not finding enough space to sit together because us crazy white folk are taking up too much room.

When all is said and done, I do wish the school all the best and its students years of success. But even if that should happen, you cannot convince me that we could not have done it together. As equals.

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