A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, said such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
Coutinho told Global News the book is one of several resources being used as learning tools for educators board-wide.
“It’s not an area we’re comfortable talking about and so when you open it up and you put the book out there and invite people into it, you get to get to the deeper work, the more meaningful work about dignity and how do we honour our students identities?”
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on Instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
Global News spoke to one of the co-editors of the book, who explained the concept for the book was conceived by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.
Moore, a motivational speaker and educator, is the director of The Privilege Institute and The National White Privilege Conference.
“He is a black man who has gone through K-to-12 schooling in the United States and he has two black sons of his own,” explained Ali Michael.
“He really wanted a book that spoke to the dynamic — the historical dynamic and the current dynamic between white women and black boys so that they could better unpack that relationship.”
Michael told Global News when it came to the name, they wanted something that would draw attention.
“Some people say, ‘Well you know… why are you talking about white people?'” she said.
“For me, as a white woman, I appreciate naming whiteness because I grew up in a house where we were supposed to be colour blind. We were never supposed to talk about race.”
— With files from The Canadian Press