A Chilliwack secondary graduate has joined in the voices speaking against racism.
Ashante Morgan, 20, went to the school from 2015-2018 and was targeted by other students for being black. One day, near the end of her Grade 11 year, she was walking through the parking lot when one student screamed the N word at her. The kids around him laughed, and nobody spoke up for her.
She carried on toward the school and immediately told an administrator who was outside. While there were attempts at meetings with principals, the superintendent, Morgan and her mother, nothing was ever resolved.
The student was forced to apologize. She heard he was put on probation, but he was back in school for their Grade 12 year — briefly, before going to another Chilliwack school.
But the situation persisted. The racism persisted. And her anxiety surrounding going to school every day grew. So Morgan completed all of her graduation requirements in the first semester, and left the school in January.
“I did want to finish the rest of the year with my friends,” she told The Progress. “But it was just too much.”
Things are a bit better now. Being older and out of the school environment has helped.
But she’s happy people are speaking out now, following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the United States last week.
“The movement is getting so much attention,” she says. It spurred her roommate, Jean Leslie, onto writing up a social media post in support of her friend. She sent it to Morgan for approval, and after a few edits they clicked send.
Leslie posted to Twitter. Morgan shared to Instagram and Facebook.
And that all got the attention from the very school district Morgan says was no help in the first place.
Assistant superintendent Rohan arul-pragasam reached out on Twitter first, asking Morgan to contact her to tell her story. Morgan hasn’t done so, and explains why. For one, her story is well-documented within the school and she doesn’t want to go through that again.
“The way I feel about it, it’s not my responsibility to tell them what they need to do,” she says. “They’re the adults. They need to sit and think about the situation.”
Two days after the post, on June 4, the Chilliwack School District issued a public statement regarding the social media posts. They did not identify the student. The release is written by Arul-pragasam.
“I have been made aware of recent social media posts raising issues concerning incidents of racism associated with a school in the Chilliwack School District and the response in 2018 to that matter,” he wrote. “I can say that every complaint is taken seriously and that a response commensurate with the circumstances will be taken by our schools.
“I fully appreciate the insidious nature of racism – the harms it causes and the scars it leaves. I am committed, on behalf of the School District, to working to make our schools safe, welcoming and inclusive environments that do not tolerate discrimination in any form and that respect our community’s diversity.”
He added that he wants the district to do better in the future and said it took courage for her to make her statement publicly.
Morgan said many people are asking why she’s just bringing this up publicly now, and her answer is easy. George Floyd.
“It’s not just the United States, it’s not just black people who experience racism. It’s Indian and Asian, and even white people in areas where they are minorities,” Morgan says. “It is a race thing, but it’s more than that it’s a hate thing, people have so much hate in their hearts.”
She is planning on attending the Chilliwack Black Lives Matter March on June 5, which kicks off at her alma mater, Chilliwack secondary and moves toward the Central Community Park. It begins at 4 p.m. and wraps up around 6 p.m.
She has been asked to speak, and says she’s been working on that all day. More than anything she would like to see more people of colour represented in school, and more time spent teaching black history to students.
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