Halfway through Black History Month, people in Montreal are speaking out against the number of incidents targeting individuals, organizations and events in recent weeks.
Meredith Lee has many questions after she experienced three recent anti-Black incidents just days apart.
“Last Saturday I decided to participate in an online presentation of Black History Month,” she told Global News.
That Feb. 6 event, hosted on the online conference application Zoom, was public according to the Toronto organizers, Carifika Canada.
About 26 minutes into a recording of the meeting, obtained by Global News, a drawing in red which, eventually spelled out the N-word, appeared on the screen. It was accompanied eventually by pornographic drawings, other derogatory words and voices making anti-black comments.
“Honestly, I was devastated,” said Lee shaking her head. “I was shocked, I was angered.”
Organizers said they shut down the meeting then resumed it. Minutes into a video recording of the second conference, also obtained by Global News, images not related to the topic appeared.
According to Lee, she was traumatized and spent the rest of the weekend thinking about what happened.
“I couldn’t believe that in 2021 this was something that I had to experience,” she said.
The mother of two said two days later, she had to deal with an incident involving her eight-year-old son, who she claimed was given a note by another child in which her son’s skin colour was mocked.
She said that same day at another school, her friend’s 10-year-old son was also mocked by a classmate who used a derogatory term to describe his skin colour. The child said the incident upset him.
“Ah it made me feel sad and left out,” Malcolm Minott recalled, “like I’m not like everyone else.”
“Malcolm told me he cried until the point where he was almost vomiting,” said Elizabeth Harewood referring to her son.
She said while the child responsible for the incident was suspended, she is tired of giving her kids the same warning.
“That people are mean, there’s mean people in this world, there are people that don’t like you for your skin,” Harewood reflected.
The multiple incidents have the two mothers worried, and Lee noted that she wants people to know these attacks hurt. “When it happens to you, there’s no way to describe it,” she explained.
Criminal defense lawyer Phil Schneider said he believes the ‘Zoom-bombing’ incident with the comments, words and images, was a hate crime, since the event was public.
“They were directing it towards a specific group, Black people,” he explained, “and that being the case they were inciting people to hatred. There is, in my opinion, no doubt about that.”
Still, the women said they are somewhat optimistic, partly because of what Malcolm claimed his classmates said to him after the incident.
“I was actually surprised when they come up to me saying ‘Black Lives matter'” Malcolm said.
“Yah, that was powerful,” Lee laughed.
She added that she’s hopeful. She’s glad that schools, including the one attended by her son, are trying to inform kids about why racism hurts, and to appreciate diversity.