Here’s an Alternative to Black Oriented Schools

I received an interesting visit yesterday from Mike Ramsay, the vice chairperson of the Waterloo Region District School Board in Ontario. A Jamaican-born Canadian, Mike had read a column I wrote for and wanted to meet me. So when he came to Lakeland, Florida, to visit his Canadian snowbird friends, Cam and Sharon Conrad, he brought them around for a chat.

It turned out that Mike was troubled by a growing movement in Ontario to create black-oriented schools. Although he is black, he opposes the idea because he believes it would be a step backward instead of forward.

He is right, of course.

But you can imagine how many special interests would be involved in such a movement, and how many people would stand to gain from it. Standing in their way could have political consequences.

I couldn’t think of an answer to Mike’s dilemma as we sat in the family room, looking out at the rain yesterday afternoon. But I woke up at 3 a.m. with an idea.

For what it’s worth, here it is.

I think all Ontario schools – all Canadian schools – should offer a comprehensive course of black studies

There would be so much to learn, and students of all ethnic backgrounds would benefit from taking it. My Lakeland-born wife, Sandra, studied Black American Literature at the University of South Florida and it gave her valuable insights that have helped her in her career as a journalist and teacher.

Think of the wealth of material that exists! Off the top of my head, there’s the Underground Railroad that brought runaway U.S. slaves to freedom in Canada. We could all learn so much from the lives of such men as Martin Luther King, Jr, Marcus Garvey and Booker T. Washington. And we could all be enriched by delving into the minds and souls of Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and so many other literary giants.

Yes, Mike, you are right to say we should not seek exclusiveness but embrace inclusiveness, and one way to do this would be to invite children of all races to share the black experience.