In a news conference outside HWDSB headquarters this morning, former student trustee Ahona Mehdi said she experienced racist remarks by Board Trustees. She was joined by several young people who also said they had experienced a climate of racism. Mehdi repeated some of the allegations she made in her twitter chain yesterday wherein she called out the HWDSB for, in her words being “ a disgustingly racist & oppressive institution” citing as examples–White Trustee using the n-word in reference to Serena Williams. White Trustee claiming that there is “too much Black leadership” in our extremely anti-Black school board. White Trustee claiming that Arabs/Muslims are evil & that we shouldn’t waste our time/breath discussing such hopeless people. White Trustees/Staff consistently encouraging me (a Brown female) to operate more like my co-Student -Trustee (a white male). White Trustee shaming me (a brown girl) for not wearing a Christmas sweater to a Board meeting.- Being silenced, lectured, called aggressive & told to trust the expertise of white Staff when wanting to discuss an anti-oppressive/anti-racist lens for the Safe Schools Panel.“ Said Mehdi today “It is not my obligation to publicly name the trustees at this time, but they also know exactly who they are,” adding that in each incident she described there was at least one other trustee present. “The HWDSB Chair can claim that racism will not be tolerated, but it has been—time and time again,” Mehdi said, adding, “The very people preaching about intolerance, have never failed to perpetuate it.”
2017-2018 student trustee Ruby Hye said she felt tokenized during her term. “My role was tokenistic, my voice was nothing more than an image for them, it was for the process of having a brown face on their media thing. “She went on. “Board Chair Alex Johnstone wrote in response to Ahona’s thread that racism and oppression will not be tolerated but what does it say…when a trustee can get away with saying the “N” word at a trustee dinner and nobody says anything about it?”
Ms. Mehdi called for student involvement in any anti-racism training board members and staff may receive, for a completely transparent process in the selection of the investigators who will look into the issues she raised, and the “impeachment” of trustees found to have engaged in racist actions.