BY: GOWRI ABHINANDA
Web Features Editor
The summer of 2020 was monumental, as activists across the nation mobilized to demand an end to racial inequalities in society. Recently, activists at the Bay took the next step by pushing for incorporating social justice in the classrooms by including the Bay’s new African American History Honors class.
Most class curriculums sway towards euro-centric, whitewashed, sexist and hetero-normative, biases, thus shunning critical histories, cultures and identities. Therefore, activists are pushing for “decolonizing the curriculum,” which effectively adapts the curriculum to represent marginalized voices through cultural diversity.
African American History Honors teacher Ches Kanno aims to implement de-colonization efforts in his classroom. He firmly believes, “inclusion is important when you have under-represented populations. So we need to raise awareness, so Brown and Black students are being advocated for.” Kanno’s instruction for this class has been effective as he decided to start the first topic on pre-colonial Africa rather than the Atlantic-Slave Trade. Kanno did this to not start with trauma, causing many psychological ramifications as suggested by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Oftentimes, instructors fail to notice the power specific curriculums have to trigger trauma. Hence, the approach towards the material is just as important as the curriculum’s content itself as it has a significant effect on the students who participate in the course.
Kanno said he would then cover slavery, racial segregation in America, and the present-day effects of systemic racism. The course also examines the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and looks ahead into Afro-futurism. The inclusion of Black power is empowering to students and beneficial so Black students may unlearn the societal conditioning of being unseen. The authors and curriculum set to be taught by Kanno adhere to the call-to-actions of diversification of materials and content and social justice outcomes. The authors students are exposed to shape their perspectives on issues and ensure the amplification of Black voices in the curriculum, which is vital to make sure their actual history is told.
Despite his passion, many students at the Bay questioned whether or not Kanno’s selection to be the teacher for this class was a true testament to decolonization efforts. Kanno, who is Asian-American, is aware of this sentiment which is why he is on the fence about teaching this class. He said he would never understand the Black community’s suffering, which is why he believes if a Black teacher was teaching the course, it would be more beneficial. According to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), schools need Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers to promote authentic anti-racist culture as only one-fifth of teachers are non-white. The Bay needs to re-examine itself to find teachers of color to teach more courses. This would be vital as in the future, the African American History course and other courses could be taught by BIPOC individuals who will help amplify the voices of these marginalized communities.
Decolonization also calls for “diverse testing,” substitution for basic testing, and the African American History course accomplishes this through project-centered learning. This African American History class is a step in the right direction to decolonize the Bay in terms of testing as there is an integration of racial biases in assessments.
The inclusion of the African American History class is beneficial for the Bay. It adheres to most of the decolonization demands and provides the voice that many isolated Black students needed. However, this is not enough, and more change must occur at the Bay. Many groups are still under-represented that require deep conversations of reform. There is potential for more diverse educators, testing methods to be brought to the Bay and various teaching materials. The possibilities are endless, and there’s only room to grow, so the Bay may truly pride itself as the diverse and inclusive school it proclaims to be.