NSCC is­sues apol­ogy af­ter com­plaint raised over racist im­age

Tri-County Vanguard - - NEWS - KATHY JOHN­SON THEVANGUARD.CA

The NSCC Bur­ridge Cam­pus in Yar­mouth is­sued an apol­ogy last week af­ter com­plaints were raised about a life-size im­age that was on a class­room door for about a week that many said had racial and stereo­typ­ing el­e­ments that neg­a­tively de­picted black women as moth­ers.

The im­age on the door of the Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion class­room de­picted a black woman scantly dressed, with a cof­fee and a cig­a­rette in one hand and a baby in the other arm with the cap­tion “How not to ECE (Early Child­hood Ed­u­cate).”

The im­age was brought to the at­ten­tion of the Black Ed­u­ca­tors As­so­ci­a­tion at a con­fer­ence on the week­end by a black stu­dent who at­tends the Bur­ridge Cam­pus.

“It was brought to our at­ten­tion at one of our ses­sions we were hav­ing,” said black ed­u­ca­tor Vanessa Fells of Yar­mouth County in an in­ter­view last week. “When it came out there were 100 black teach­ers who were ex­tremely, ex­tremely an­gry and up­set that that would be posted on a door at a fa­cil­ity that is sup­posed to be of higher learn­ing.”

Fells said the im­age was on the door for about a week.

“It came down . . . af­ter some other stu­dents made a com­plaint about it, but the fact that this could be up on a door for a week be­fore any­body even both­ered to com­ment about the fact it was racist speaks to the fact that there are larger is­sues go­ing on here that need to be ad­dressed,” said Fells.

“The is­sue is there is anti-black racism go­ing on, not just at the col­lege and not just in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, but in our so­ci­ety as a whole,” added Fells. “Peo­ple are nor­mal­iz­ing it. It’s hap­pen­ing so much peo­ple are just say­ing it doesn’t mat­ter, why com­plain about it, it’s not go­ing to change and if your com­plain­ing about it you’re be­ing too sen­si­tive so we’re sweep­ing it un­der the rug and let­ting it hap­pen.

“At some point we need to learn that this is not ok, and we need to learn why it’s not ok and find a way that peo­ple can be­come ed­u­cated, so stu­dents don’t have to go into a school sys­tem and see this,” she said.

Fells said she can’t imag­ine how African Nova Sco­tian stu­dents felt walk­ing past this im­age ev­ery day.

“To them it must seem like the Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion class is say­ing you know what, this is ok and there’s noth­ing you can do about it, this is the way the world is, and this is what we think of your com­mu­nity,” said Fells. “For me, I’m very an­gry and en­raged.”

NSCC’S RE­ACTS TO IS­SUE

In a state­ment is­sued on Oct. 30, NSCC said they are ad­dress­ing the is­sue, call­ing it se­ri­ous.

“We are ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing this is­sue. We are deeply com­mit­ted to un­der­stand­ing how this ac­tiv­ity oc­curred within our learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” reads the state­ment. “This is un­ac­cept­able and NSCC apol­o­gizes for the harm this has caused. We are ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent ac­cord­ing to our Re­spect­ful Work­place and Learn­ing En­vi­ron­ment Pol­icy.”

“The col­lege is com­mit­ted to fos­ter­ing an in­clu­sive com­mu­nity, one that is safe and al­lows for a re­spect­ful learn­ing and work­place en­vi­ron­ment for ev­ery­one,” the state­ment went on to say. “We un­der­stand that racism ex­ists in our so­ci­ety and we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ac­knowl­edge it and ad­dress the harm it causes when it shows up in our or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Ros­alind Pen­found, NSCC VP Or­ga­ni­za­tional De­vel­op­ment, said in the state­ment, “We care deeply about all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity. Sup­ports are avail­able on our cam­puses for any stu­dents or em­ploy­ees who may need them,” adding, “we are com­mit­ted to work­ing as al­lies with the di­verse com­mu­ni­ties we serve to grow and learn from this is­sue.”

UN­DER­STAND­ING NEEDED

Fells said in a sit­u­a­tion like this, peo­ple see it as just some­thing that hap­pened, but what they don’t re­al­ize for peo­ple of African an­ces­try is when they deal with a racist event it’s like a wound that doesn’t heal.

“Ev­ery time some­thing like that hap­pens it’s like that wound opens and gets big­ger and big­ger,” she said. And Fells said peo­ple need to un­der­stand racist com­ments or ac­tions are not just some­thing to get over.

“We’re liv­ing it ev­ery sin­gle day, so we can’t just get over it be­cause to­mor­row, what if some­thing else hap­pens? Do I need to keep tak­ing it on the cheek and get over it? No, we need peo­ple to dis­cuss it and to learn from it, so it stops hap­pen­ing,” she said.

She said some­times it can be the sim­plest of com­ments that hurt.

“I wear my hair in an afro and I’ve had peo­ple make hor­ri­bly racist com­ments about my hair and peo­ple think, oh I’m just mak­ing a joke. What they don’t re­al­ize, if you look around our so­ci­ety and in the me­dia, peo­ple of African an­ces­try are told al­most from the day they are born that the way that they look and the way their hair nat­u­rally grows is ugly and so this is the same thing,” Fells said, say­ing there are many on­go­ing stereo­types of “who and what our black com­mu­nity is, who are black women are and how they raise their children.”

Fells said peo­ple need to start talk­ing and ad­dress­ing these is­sues, oth­er­wise it’s never go­ing away.

“Peo­ple need to stop be­ing afraid to have what I call coura­geous con­ver­sa­tions about race,” she said. “Talk to some­one in the African Nova Sco­tia com­mu­nity. Ask some­one to do cul­tural con­fi­dence classes. Learn and un­der­stand the his­tory about why things like this are not only in­ap­pro­pri­ate but ex­tremely racist and dis­re­spect­ful to the black com­mu­nity.”

FROM FACE­BOOK

The door at the NSCC Bur­ridge cam­pus. It was taken down fol­low­ing com­plaints.

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