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‘So performative’: Black student urges more from Surrey schools after racist incidents

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The Surrey School District says it needs to do more after some disturbing allegations of racism. – Jun 24, 2021

A Black student at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School in Surrey, B.C., is speaking out after she says numerous racist incidents she endured were not properly addressed.

Global News first reached out to the student, who wished to remain anonymous, after allegations of discrimination and bullying within the school were being shared over an Instagram page called Black Vancouver.

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The girl spoke about a few of times she was targeted for her race, including one in particular that left her traumatized.

“I was actually called ‘n—–‘ by four Grade 8 boys. These boys were just told that they didn’t know better because I, at the time, was 16, and these boys were 13,” she said.

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“Any stereotype you can think of, of a Black person, I’ve been called. … And that’s how, at Q.E., it’s been the past five years.”

Another instance, she said, was during Black History Month in February one year, when posters that had been put up on lockers were later covered with Valentine’s Day signs.

“I’ve always felt isolated in my school,” the girl said.

She accused the Surrey School District of not taking any concrete measures to address racism in classrooms.

“It’s so performative what every school is doing. Every single school is talking about Black History Month, and Black Lives Matter, but yet why do we still get treated bad?”

District spokesperson Ritinder Matthews acknowledged the district needs to do more in its anti-racism efforts, and that it has hired a firm from Seattle to help.

“One of the ways we’re gathering stories and feedback from our school communities is through listening circles, so we’ll have listening circles for families, for students, and for staff,” Matthews said.

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Black Vancouver told Global News in an email that they have a number of recommendations for the district on the topic, such as requiring all students and their parent or guardian to sign a letter acknowledging that racism and bullying will not be tolerated and creating a panel of people from different backgrounds to hear and deal with racist incidents that occur at school.

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“A lot of these kids … (say) that they are constantly told that they are ‘policing the school’ or that’s it’s ‘not that big of a deal’ if they bring up issues such as non-Black people saying the N-word at school everyday!” the group said in the email.

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The student said asking for feedback is not good enough, and that she is exhausted of giving hers in events such as listening circles.

“Students and administration need to be held accountable. All I’ve ever wanted was for people to say, ‘I’m sorry. But what can I do better?”

She said she hopes sharing her story will encourage other Black youth to share their experiences, and that when it comes to pushing for systemic change, she won’t be giving up anytime soon.

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“We have to create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome. Both the administration and the district have to stop turning a blind eye. It’s got to end somewhere.”

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