Studies in Self-Isolation – Entry #6

Hello, readers, and welcome to the final “Studies in Self-Isolation” blog post before the summer holiday (or, alternatively, the first post of the summer!). The world is wildly different than when I last wrote for this series, with the anti-racism protests continuing to channel discontent and outrage at racial injustice around the world, and with new information arising about reopening the province’s economy and implementing aid programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We are shockingly close to the three-month mark of the pandemic, which is rather strange – it feels as though it wasn’t too long ago that we all received that email saying school was beginning after March break in an online format.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that the past couple of weeks have felt almost incomprehensible – it’s commonly said that we’re “living through historic times” but the sheer magnitude of this realization just recently dawned on me when I considered how our day-to-day reality will be viewed by future generations, much like we view monumental events in history like the Stonewall protests and the civil rights movement of the late 1960s. Mark Twain is believed to have said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” and I think that this applies to drawing parallels between the current state of affairs and uprisings of civil disobedience in the past, when citizens expressed their discontent with a system unjustly skewed to disadvantage and oppress certain groups in movements eerily similar to those of today. 

Something that I am very grateful for is the effort that teachers have put into using classes over the last week or so to initiate and encourage difficult but critical discussion about everything that is going on in the world, as well as taking the time to educate us on the history of racial injustice. One teacher dedicated to equipping us with the knowledge required to view the current #BlackLivesMatter movement with an informed and rounded perspective is Mr. Fanni, who spent several English classes this past week lecturing and presenting clips that touch upon crucial issues that have shaped the world we live in today. 

His first lesson urged us to analyse our relationship with the police and think critically about the correlation between levels of police interaction and feelings of protection by the police. He discussed the disparity between communities of privilege – wealthier, non-Black, non-Indigenous communities – and those devoid of it with regard to policing. During this lesson, we were also aided in contextualizing current events, with a certain emphasis on the often forgotten and rather dark history of the RCMP in Canada, which was established to move Indigenous peoples onto reservations, and constabulary police positions in Europe, which were intended to protect property (which often included slaves). 

Mr. Fanni introduced us to some of the most prominent thinkers on race and inequality such as bell hooks, Keeanga Yammahta Taylor, and Cornel West, all of whom emphasize the importance of intersectionality: the identification of how race intersects with class, gender, education, and more. During the second class, we discussed the history of discriminatory policies such as redlining during the post-Great Depression period and this year’s CARES Act in the United States, which have enabled and perpetuated the consistent disenfranchisement of black citizens. We were also encouraged to think about the language surrounding the mobilization occurring around the world and discussed the appropriateness and connotation of terms such as “protest”, “insurrection”, “civil disobedience”, and “revolution”. 

Mr. Fanni also guided us through the governmental funding of institutions in society, revealing the contrast between funding for police departments and funding for other social services. This led to a discussion about proposed changes arising from the movement, most significantly some activists’ suggestion to defund the police, which would result in a reallocation of resources to other services in a way that would, in concept, reduce the need for a heavy police force. 

A key takeaway from the lectures, at least for me, is the examination of anti-racist actions that we can take and that leaders take, which we conducted with two key considerations: whether the action is benefitting the person partaking in it (it shouldn’t) and whether the action is helping the people it claims to help in a material way (it should!). We were provided with a folder of resources that allow us to contribute materially and not superficially, such as petitions to sign, organizations to donate to, documentaries to watch, and books to read. 

I’d like to extend appreciation to all teachers who made an active effort to provoke conversation and educate us on the context of the anti-racism demonstrations during these last few weeks of school. While remote learning extended our school year by a week to wrap up assessments instead of final exams, it presented us with an incredible opportunity to delve into meaningful real-world issues at a critical juncture in history where we have a moment to listen attentively, speak up responsibly, and contribute to material change. 

-Christina Chkarboul ’21