Will This Be The ONE? Reflection, Engagement & Action Against Anti-Black Racism in Ontario
Will this be the ONE that makes undeniably visible the metaphoric knee of anti-Black racism that sits on the necks of Black people every day?
Will this be the ONE that finally energizes us all to dismantle anti-Black racism forever and create a better future for Black youth?
Let us be clear, George Floyd’s death (as well as the deaths of so many other unarmed Black people) is not just the action of a few bad cops but a consequence of systems and cultures that treat Black lives as lives that don’t matter. This devaluing of Black lives has devastating consequences on the physical and mental wellbeing of Black Ontarians, especially Black youth. Far too frequently, it results in fatalities like that of George Floyd, whose life was snuffed out on a cold pavement in broad daylight.
We must also name Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Afro-Indigenous woman who died during an encounter with the police in Toronto on May 27th. Too frequently, Black and Indigenous youth face a system that constantly threatens their mental wellbeing and physical safety, while consistently criminalizing them at the same time.
We are encouraged by the widespread anger, grief, anguish, pain, and the groundswell of protests. Will this be the ONE that finally demonstrates that anti-Black racism is REAL and must be dismantled forever?
NOW is the time, well beyond this moment of extreme social unrest, to better educate ourselves about the pervasive anti-Black racism that interlocks with other structures of oppression that Black youth and their families in Ontario experience – and for action towards social transformation and accountability.
We must bear witness to the cultural, political, and socio-economic cruelty of anti-Black racism by becoming better educated about the long-standing issues and demands from Black youth and communities. For example, take the time to review the Doing Right Together for Black Youth report – and the countless other reports that have systematically researched and documented the disparities in outcomes for Black youth that coexist with a long history of Black youth being labelled “troubled” and “troubling” – as “problems” and as “dangerous” to society. Such disparities include higher rates of unemployment, incarceration, school suspension/expulsion, over policing, disproportionate contact with Children’s Aid Societies, and lack of representation of Black people in leadership roles.
The Doing Right Together for Black Youth report, based on data from over 1,500 community members, found that the number one issue for Black youth and their families in Ontario is widespread anti-Black racism that runs through all of Ontario’s institutions and systems (including the educational, child welfare, and criminal justice systems, as well as the labour market). The number two issue is that Black excellence is not recognized because of a deficits-based view of Black children, youth, and their communities – one that magnifies their shortcomings and undervalues their assets. In the 21st century, we still fail to fully recognize the achievements, successes, contributions, hopes, and dreams of Ontario’s Black communities.
We must commit to action that dismantles anti-Black racism forever. Let’s not turn away ever again from striving in whatever sphere of influence we have – in our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, places of worship, workplaces, government ministries, non-profit programs and organizations, small or big businesses, etc. – to create a more equitable Ontario for Black youth and their families. Ontario can no longer afford to go back to reactionary measures when “spikes” in violence emerge. We must replace speaking points and precarious (or misdirected) funding streams with systemic reform and community capacity building.
We reaffirm that Black Lives Matter!
Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
YouthREX will continue addressing the racial and structural inequities that Black youth and communities in Ontario experience and the resulting disparities in wellbeing for Black youth. We will do so by facilitating the Ontario youth sector’s access to shared knowledge through our services (Knowledge Hub, YouthREX ED offerings, and Evaluation Supports) so that programs and services for Black youth in Ontario can be built on the best available knowledge and evidence from research, practice, and lived experience.
We urge our stakeholders in Ontario’s youth sector (youth, students, youth workers, management, researchers, policy makers, etc.) to join us in committing to advocacy for the full implementation of 13 multi-sectoral Calls to Action that echo and reaffirm those from previous consultations with Black communities over the last decade.
Youth Research and Evaluation eXchange (YouthREX) is a province-wide initiative based at the School of Social Work at York University. Our mission is to make research evidence and evaluation practices accessible and relevant to Ontario’s grassroots youth sector through capacity building, knowledge exchange, and evaluation leadership. Our vision is an Ontario where shared knowledge is transformed into positive impact for all youth.