Doing Right Together for Black Youth: Working Against Anti-Black Racism in Ontario’s Youth Sector
by Uzo Anucha, MSW, PhD
Provincial Academic Director, YouthREX
Associate Professor, School of Social Work
“Stereotypes and microaggressions shape the daily experiences of Black youth in Ontario. The cumulative impacts of anti-Black racism include disempowerment, isolation, internalized racism, and poor self-esteem.”
- Doing Right Together, 2018
No. We are not ‘there’ yet.
No. We are not yet in a post-racial world.
No. Ontario is not yet an equitable province for Black youth.
Yes. Race still matters. Powerfully!
Anti-Black racism still constrains the opportunities of Black youth in Ontario and limits their ability to thrive and live up to their potential.
This is the key finding in Doing Right Together for Black Youth, a visual report that YouthREX just released based on data from over 1500 community members who responded to a call from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) to provide input to guide the implementation of Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan (BYAP).
The aim of the BYAP, a $47-million investment over four years, is to broadly tackle the barriers that Black youth in Ontario experience that leads to disproportionately negative outcomes and lack of opportunity. The BYAP plans to reduce disparities for Black children, youth, and their families by increasing support in a number of key areas, such as mentorship programming, access to higher education and skills development, community outreach, anti-violence promotion, and supporting collective community action.
Drawing directly from input from community members, Doing Right Together for Black Youth highlights the top ten issues for Black youth and describes how they experience these issues and the impacts on their wellbeing. The number one issue is widespread anti-Black racism that runs through all of Ontario’s institutions and systems, including the educational, child welfare, and criminal justice systems, as well as the labour market. Closely following this issue, at number two, is that Black excellence is not recognized because of a deficits-based view of Black children, youth, and their communities - one that magnifies their shortcomings and undervalues their assets. Our society is still failing to fully recognize the achievements, successes, contributions, hopes, and dreams of Ontario’s Black communities.
Doing Right Together for Black Youth also includes reflections by community members on the best ways to work together to ensure that the BYAP meets the needs of Black youth. They emphasized that advancing equity for Black youth requires centering Black youth and ensuring that there is strong representation and meaningful involvement of Black youth within BYAP, as well as within the community projects supported by BYAP. A young person that attended the BYAP consultation in Toronto East shared the following:
“As a Black youth, I want to be an investor in designing programs. I want to be a part of the decision-making process to build my community, have an action plan and check to see it these things have been done.”
Nothing about Black youth without Black youth!
The Ontario youth sector must provide the space for Black youth to interrogate and challenge inequitable systems. Youth initiatives must amplify the voices, perspectives, and experiences of Black youth, and support them to find imaginative and creative ways to tell old and new stories, participate in political activity, respond to complex social problems, and advocate for change.
Black youth have important insights into what is needed to create the conditions for their success. By actively supporting Black youth to participate in their communities, they can create change on a personal level, while impacting the world around them.
The big question we have been asking ourselves at YouthREX is:
How can Ontario’s youth sector work against anti-Black racism to create a more equitable Ontario, eliminating systemic, race-based disparities for Black children and youth?
We want to explore how the Ontario youth sector might:
1) promote and embrace an anti-Black racism strategy that acknowledges and raises awareness of how widespread and systemic anti-Black racism plays out for Black youth across multiple systems
2) ensure that there is strong representation and meaningful involvement of Black youth within BYAP, as well as within the community projects supported by BYAP
3) adopt an intersectionality approach that understands how diverse Black youth are impacted by anti-Black racism
4) provide rights-based education to Black youth to proactively prepare them to deal with systems
5) support Black youth and their families to better navigate and engage with systems, in acknowledgement that current systems are not set up by or for Black people
YouthREX invites our stakeholders to continue this dialogue! Join us in thinking through and sharing your strategies for working against anti-Black racism and supporting Black youth and their families. Share your practice-able ideas, strategies, questions, and comments through this online form.
We will disseminate these widely as we receive them so we can create a Community of Practice working against anti-Black racism.
We look forward to continuing this critical conversation with you!