Another despairing report on Black youth

By Patrick Hunter Thursday May 14 2015 in Opinion
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A report commissioned by the FACES (Facilitating Access, Change and Equity in Systems) of Peel Collaborative has just been released. It is a report that documents the state being faced by Black youth in the Peel region. And, as you might have guessed, it does not paint a pretty picture.

Let me get a couple of things out of the way: One is the frustration, not so much at having another report on the state of the Black community – although that’s a part of it. It is the somewhat pessimistic outlook that I have that it will be another report that gathers dust on a few bookshelves without any action taken.

The other is: In the abstract of the report, the main audiences for the report are listed as “service providers, funders of public and social services, Black youth, and community leaders in Black community”. Yes, by all means they should take the recommendations to heart. But why are the Peel District School Board, the Halton Regional Police Services and the Region of Peel not specifically mentioned as needing to be front and centre in reviewing and developing action plans to respond to the concerns and recommendations?

Much of the findings in the report are not new to those who have seen similar reports about the Black community, and Black youth in particular, in Toronto. The one aspect that has some novelty is that it focuses on this area of Southern Ontario, which is frequently lost within the Toronto scene.

We know that a large segment of the Black community lives in the Brampton and Mississauga area. It is where many of us could afford to purchase respectable housing compared to Toronto. So, over the years, that is one of the communities to which racialized, and particularly, the Black community has migrated. Of course, the Durham Region is also another hot spot.

The FACES report notes that, according to the 2011 Census, there are 116,225 Black persons living in Peel – 60 per cent in Brampton, 39 per cent in Mississauga. That is nine per cent of the population of Peel. Youth (15-24), is 17 per cent of the Black population. Black children under the age of 15 are about 27 per cent.

That means that these young people, and the bulging phalanx going through the school system in Peel, need special attention.

How do these young people feel about their place in the Peel society?

While some of the participants in the study expressed their satisfaction about living in Peel Region and being socially active in many aspects of community life, others reported that many Black youth feel unwanted, devalued and socially isolated in Peel Region.”

Again, the findings are not surprising. From teachers’ low expectations of Black students to streaming away from academic tracks, to “differential discipline of students based on race”; to the presence of police in schools all factor in to negatively affect the Black student’s self-esteem and therefore positive outcomes.

Two years ago, the Peel District School Board (PDSB) released a report which reviewed its hiring and promotion practices. The aim of that report was, one hopes, to better address diversity and equity in its workplace. One presumes that this is not only targeting the Board itself, but the hiring and promotion of racialized teachers – ensuring diversity among its teaching staff. So, on that basis, I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they have begun the process of making some kind of change in the classroom. Am I being too generous?

There is a fear among these institutions and organizations of collecting race-based data. The Toronto Board, for example, agonized over this problem a few years ago. Peel seems to be dragging its feet on this issue. I can interpret this as the fear of being found wanting – that is, the perceptions that we have that there is a higher rate of dropouts, harsher penalties and low expectations of Black youth.

As the authors point out in the conclusion of the FACES report, the experiences that Black youth face in schools are not dissimilar to those faced by Black youth in Toronto.

“What is different might be the extent to which the municipalities, school boards and police service are willing to name the issues, collect the data needed to monitor change and hold themselves accountable, and their willingness to implement focused, funded, and lasting solutions.”

I would urge the above parties to really take these observations and recommendations seriously and begin to act on them. The growth in the Black population of Peel would suggest that it is unlikely to decline. It is therefore important to begin to make changes that would ensure more positive outcomes before it becomes too late or would require Herculean efforts, not mention costs, to redirect the current outcomes.

Email: / Twitter: @pghntr

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