Two non-South Asian girls from a local high school decided to dress up as people of colour (PoC) for Halloween. They blacked their faces, made beards, wrapped turbans on their heads, and even found fitting outfits. They, and the supporters of the pictures that the girls posted on Twitter and Facebook, continued the “effect” further by making racist and stereotypical comments about PoC, including calling themselves “Pakis”, and “Arabs.” They also took and publicly uploaded photosin stereotypical poses, as well as stereotypical places (i.e. outside an Indian restaurant). A couple of students who voiced their offense to this brought it to the teachers, which escalated to the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRSDB). Though these costumes were not worn to school, a trend of cyberbullying started as soon as the offended girls stood up against the act. They held a restorative meeting (20 days later), and these girls were let off the hook. The few vocal students who stood up and represented their fellow offended peers were told to “keep quiet” of the situation, and swear secrecy of the result of the meeting, by WRDSB.
It’s not hard to see the injustice here. The Board failed to push the girls to simply apologize to the victims of this act of cultural appropriation and cyberbullying, but they also undermined the situation by literally brushing the entire issue under the table. The offenders were not even punished in any way, i.e. detention or suspension, despite that their own code of conduct stated that offenders should be dealt with accordingly.
You may not be a Person of Colour, of religion, or you may not even be directly aware of these offenses. It may have never happened to you at all. But there are so many students who have battled with these stereotypes, including your friends, peers, and even teachers.
We’re not going to try and explain the damage done here, if it’s not plain already. It’s a simple matter of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would want done unto yourself.”
Racism is bullying too, and cyberbullying is a truth that surrounds our generation. Outlined in Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, and Bill 80, the Anti-Bullying Act, there are consequences associated with cyberbullying and the appropriate action must be taken by educators.
Support us in our rally against WRDSB to take stronger action of in-school offenses of racism and cyberbullying that touch upon the most basic principles of respect, community, and security. We want to see policies in educational settings that directly address racism with no tolerance whatsoever, potentially even taking it to a provincial-wide level. This petition will be forwarded to Kitchener-Waterloo’s MPP, Catherine Fife, in hopes of addressing WRDSB and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Tweet this petition link http://chn.ge/XEmgRA and hashtag it #RacismIsBullying.
Share on Facebook, and help spread the word.
If you would like to share any personal stories (anonymous or not) about racism and/or cyberbullying, please email us at RacismIsBullying@gmail.com and we will include them in our letter to the MPP.
**NOTE** The picture of the two girls dressed in the costumes will not be posted due to our belief in its privacy. This petition is NOT about the girls involved, but about the way the WRDSB reacted to the situation, involving both racism and cyberbullying.
The picture included at the beginning is part of a campaign by the Students Teaching About Racism in Society group from Ohio University.