Racial Discrimination in School Justice
A troubling incident occurred in a high school physical education class in Keswick, Ontario in April 2009. A grade nine student was charged with assault causing bodily harm after an altercation in gym class resulted because another student was racially taunting the grade 9 boy. Neither boy can be identified by name under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but the racial orientation of both boys was clearly identified. The one boy who was the victim of the racial discrimination came to Canada in 2004 from his native country. The other boy, who ended up hospitalized with a broken nose after this event was a Caucasian male, born and raised in Canada. The altercation began in a gym class when the white student began verbally abusing the young Asian boy solely because of his national heritage. This was especially troubling because after conducted interviews many reporters discovered that this young boy was one to fly under the radar and not go looking for trouble. At the end of the day, two things were certain; the first was that the white boy would be walking around with a broken nose and the second that the Asian boy would be the only one facing both school suspension and a criminal charge.
Close to one hundred students gathered the day after the altercation to support the Asian boy and stand beside him as they recognized how wrong it was to racially discriminate against another member of their school community. Some comments from the other students (who can also not be identified) were that the suspension was just because he did act out a physical form of violence to the other boy, but a criminal charge was way to excessive. This was the feeling amongst many of the students at the school, especially because everyone agreed that if it were not for the terrible display of racial discrimination, the fight would not have even occurred in the first place. The Asian boy’s family noted that this was the first act of racism that the family has ever encountered since they came to Canada in the year 2004. There was no doubt that the boy was different than the rest of the school, as stated by one of the other students; which puts his racial isolation up onto an even higher pedestal, given the fact that his support group does not reach as wide within the school community.
Given the Asian boy’s clear racial difference, in comparison to the other student’s, this sparks the thought of some members of the community that the boy was not only subject to racism in the physical education classroom, but also throughout his criminal punishment. If he is evidently different than most members of the community than it could be that he is still even being treated wrongfully in his criminal charge. The article states that the city of Keswick has a history of personal, racial attacks on Asian fisherman which have surfaced in recent years, speaking directly to the need for racial equity in school programs. It is very imperative to note the efforts of the students at the high school, who did take matters into their own hands and outwardly protest the punishment of the Asian boy. Who knows if the student was punished more harshly because of his racial orientation but regardless, racism and racial stereotyping is one major factor that evidently dominates the physical education portion of a child’s schooling and needs to be monitored much more closely if we want the students to grow to their mental and physical potential.
The demographics of Keswick, Ontario present us with a predominately white neighbourhood which houses very small amounts of landed immigrants (Atlas of Canada). This being said, I find it very troubling that in this instance, there were no repercussions to the boy who was verbally abusing the Asian boy by yelling racial slurs towards him. This is one example of an injustice that has been committed against an individual in Canada but certainly does not even begin to represent the nationwide issue of discrimination. The students that witnessed the fight even began to side with the Asian boy saying things such as, “Rules are rules and he did fight so I guess suspension is fair, but being charged, no, he was defending himself” (Toronto Sun). Other students outwardly described the Asian boy as ‘different’ than everyone else which leads me to speculate that his punishment was not only unjust but also to some extent an attack on his right to immigrate to Canada from other countries and be, ‘different’. If the boy was suspended and not charged this would not have even sparked as an issue to be worthy of mentioning, but considering the fact that he was charged and hundreds of students rallied in protest against the extent to which he was punished than I believe it warrants certain recognition. This boy who was criminally charged for defending himself is not only being discriminated against by the boy who verbally assaulted him but also by the city of Keswick if they allow this boy to be charged for using force against a student who was demonstrating his self-appointed majority power to deprive this young boy of his right to be different.
I believe, once again, that the reason some student’s are so ignorant to the ever changing diversity of Canada is due to a sever lack of educational knowledge. Children, or adults for that matter, will not be welcoming or understanding to the influx of immigrants that the country has unless they are educated from a young age, and taught that being from somewhere else does not make someone any less important than themselves. Therefore, I propose that one way to bring balance to this issue is to increase the diversity of the Canadian school system. Of course this is all well and good in theory once again but I do believe that by introducing culture to students through lectures or multicultural teachers in cities that have not experienced diversity, than we can begin to combat the issue of racial minority stereotyping and discrimination.