A joke about picking cotton drew outrage online, and intervention by administrators at Langley Christian School. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

VIDEO: Racist ‘cotton’ comment by B.C. student generates outrage online, response by school

Administrator says ‘no doubt that implicit and overt discrimination is present’ in schools

An incident involving a racist joke about picking cotton, made by a student at a Langley, B.C. school has been resolved, according to a spokesperson for the school and a family member of the student who was the target.

In a social media posting that has generated more than 25,000 clicks of support and more than 700 comments, a family member, the older brother of the student, described how his sibling at the school was taking a physical education class at Langley Christian School (LCS) when the remark was made.

@evan.vese

I hope this brings some awareness to the problem at hand. It ain’t a joke. BC School systems ain’t educating bout this! @josiahvese ##blm ✊🏽

♬ original sound – evan.vese

“He’s doing push ups [and] this white kid has the audacity to walk up to him and say ‘keep picking up the cotton,’” and pretended to whip his back with a jumping rope, the family member recounted.

He went on to say that “ignorant” people who make those kind of jokes “don’t even understand the hurt they are bringing.”

“I hope this brings some awareness to the problem at hand.”

It happened last year, but the student didn’t report it until the current school year, when the school launched an anti-racism initiative, which prompted the student to come forward, LCS head of schools Adam Woelders said.

The student who made the joke has “accepted responsibility and participated in a fully restorative and educational process,” Woelders added.

“Like all schools in our community monitored by the Ministry of Education in British Columbia, LCS responds seriously to any communication or behaviour that deliberately degrades, denigrates, labels, stereotypes, incites hatred, slander, prejudice and discrimination toward anyone on the basis of one’s real or perceived sexual or gender orientation, identity, appearance, capacity, disability, ethnicity or religion,” Woelders elaborated.

“No doubt, implicit and overt discrimination is present in public and independent schools throughout the Fraser Valley region, and we all have much to do as community leaders to continue to work hard to equip staff, students and families to transform our communities for the better.”

READ ALSO: Peaceful walk highlights Black Lives Matter in Langley

Hundreds of comments posted in response to the online post said such incidents are all too common.

“I can’t count how many times I heard a non-black kid in my school say the ‘n’ word,” one person wrote.

Another said racism is in Canada “is hidden behind laughter and just kidding,” while a third described how they grew up with a best friend “who is South Sudanese, and I’ve watched this kinda stuff happen to her our whole childhood.”

While the family member did not respond to a request for an interview by the Langley Advance Times, the person did post a follow-up message that said the “situation was dealt with.”

READ ALSO: Teach Black history to fight racism, starting in elementary school: B.C. students

British Columbia Education Minister Rob Fleming recently announced his ministry was examining ways to work with local groups to develop a curriculum that better incorporates Black history, including the slave trade and the Underground Railroad.

Ministry staff were meeting with the B.C. Black History Awareness Society in an effort to address the needs of young people who are demanding change, Fleming said in a statement.

“We plan to listen and we are committed to working with community partners to strengthen the curriculum, to support diversity and to add to the global effort to end systemic racism,” he said.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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