Editor’s note: This story contains a link to an Instagram post that contains racist slurs and other language some people may find offensive. Discretion is advised.
COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) — A video shot by a Black Grade 10 student in Metro Vancouver shows her recent experience where at least one middle schooler repeatedly directs a racial slur at her.
In the video’s description, posted on Instagram by Black Vancouver, it appears to quote the Grade 10 girl, saying she was on a popular app called House Party when she says she encountered three middle schoolers.
During a conversation with two of the boys, one of them is clearly heard using the racial slur repeatedly.
“Middle schoolers from @minnekhadamiddleschool and Gleenbrook (sic) middle school decided to join the call and proceed to call us ‘n******’ and later on told me to ‘kill myself,'” the post says. (The New Westminster school district has since told NEWS 1130 an investigation was conducted and that it was determined a student from that district was not involved in this incident.)
The girl decided to calmly confront the boys about what they said to her.
“Is there a problem? Because I don’t know you. Why did you join and start using the N-word? For what reason?” she’s heard asking in the video, questioning the boys on their language use.
Adam Rudder with BC Community Alliance, a group that describes itself as combating anti-Black racism, is commending the girl behind the camera.
“Is this young man aware of the history of the word and the impacts, the potential impacts, it can have on people?” asks Rudder.
“She handled herself very well. I think I can confidently say that the Black community is pound of her for the way she dealt with it. She was educated and she was calm and she took on the burden, which I think is extremely generous of her in this particular context,” he adds.
In the video, there’s another boy we hear from, a contrast from the one who repeatedly shouted a racial slur in the background.
“I don’t know you,” the girl says, to which the boy responds, “I didn’t mean to join your House Party.”
“But why did you join in the beginning saying (censored)?” she continues. The boy then says, “That wasn’t me.”
When the girl asks the boy why he is friends with the others, if he knows what the origins of the derogatory word is, and why his camera is disabled, he says they’re “good friends” and that sometimes they “say stupid s***.”
Rudder also takes note of the this boy, and says the power peers have is “enormous,” but that “it’s also very tricky.”
“My sense is that even the young man who is telling the other boy to be quiet just had a better sense of what’s acceptable in terms of talking so whether or not I see him as an ally remains to be seen,” Rudder explains.
“He is making an attempt to defend them, he’s suggesting that what the other boy is saying is just stupid, he’s just being stupid. I don’t think that we can dismiss it, I wish it was as easy as just saying that racism is just stupidity but I think it’s far more nefarious than that and I think that one of the reasons why it continues to exist is because of our refusal again to take it seriously,” he tells CityNews.
While it has determined one of its students was not involved in this incident, New Westminster Schools says in a statement it in no way condones the behaviours or actions of the kids involved.
“As a District, we take issues like this one very seriously and have quickly worked with our students and other partners to investigate and better understand what occurred. At this time we can confidently say that no student from Glenbrook Middle School or anywhere in our district participated in this event,” the statement reads.
School District 43 in Coquitlam has issued a written statement saying it’s “aware of a racially motivated incident that involves SD43 students that has been posted to social media.”
“The district takes such matters seriously. We are addressing this situation using a multidisciplinary approach and protocol, which includes RCMP and other community partners. The district is unable to provide specific details as they relate to students but we are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all students,” the school district says.
Rudder says his solution to this issue is idealistic, but in his experience it is also the most effective.
“We have to sit down, we have to start learning about one another. So in this case what I think would be … to have a conversation between that young man and the community that was affected with representatives of the community where you would sit down and have a candid conversation about how the use of that word impacts people of African descent.”
He goes on to say, “You know I don’t assume that people are bad just because they use that word, I don’t. I think that there is an opportunity here to have a conversation. I think that both the black and the white community could benefit from that conversation but I think in particular, it’s an opportunity for to reach out to that young man to provide him a counter narrative, you know, a story about being black in this world that goes beyond the N-word, and that conveys to him the severity of that word and to convey to him, the impact that word can have on the black community.”
Editor’s note: The Instagram post has been updated since it was first posted to change the name of one of the schools. This article has been edited to reflect that change. We have also included comments from the New Westminster School District which say, after an investigation, it’s been determined a student from that district was not involved, despite the post saying so.