Police investigating ‘disturbing and patently racist’ video shared by Montreal teens
MONTREAL — Police are investigating a video staged by two West Island girls where they wear blackface and act out a series of what their school board calls “disturbing and patently racist” scenes.
The video was posted to social media early Monday, though the girls’ classmates say it was made months, if not years, ago.
And while it’s shocking, Black parents who live in the same community as the girls say racism at local schools is frequent and very troubling.
“My daughter was called the N-word when she was in elementary,” said Kemba Mitchell, the chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association.
She said she has seen local children referring to Black people as “monkeys” on social media and use many other slurs.
“This is not isolated, I’ll put it that way,” she said. “This is not an isolated situation.”
“There is work to do for all of us and this incident is a stark reminder of this fact,” said the Lester B. Pearson School Board in a statement.
In the video, the girls dance around, remaining in blackface the entire time, frequently using the N-word and moving between several racist tropes. CTV has published one segment here but has chosen not to publish or link to the full video.
CTV has also chosen to blur out the girls’ faces because they are minors. They are now 15 years old. Their families say they were 12 or 13 years old when they made the video, though several other students disputed that idea, saying it was made last year.
Students say they made it to mock a particular Black classmate. And when they made it, rather than posting it publicly, they sent it directly to a second Black classmate.
The girls were both students at John Rennie high school in Pointe-Claire, the board has confirmed.
One of the girls’ mothers contacted CTV on Monday to say the family is now fearful after a huge volume of threats made to the family. She said her husband had lost his job.
She said she was very sorry and apologized on behalf of her daughter.
For Mitchell, the chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association, that apology means nothing, she said.
“You’re just apologizing because now the repercussions… are happening,” she said.
She’d like to see police investigate the video as a hate crime. Her own childhood growing up in Montreal was littered with racist incidents, she said. She was first called the N-word at age five.
“The only difference is that now people are actually posting these things,” she said.
“This is not surprising. I think what hits home is they put names to it. They put a school to it. This is your backyard.”
What she hopes the most, she says, is that the school system will update its curriculum.
“They’re not taught that we have contributed significantly to this country. All they’re taught about is slavery.”
Tom Rhymes, the board’s assistant director general, said the video was a “devastating reminder” that racism was not something the board could “duck” and that it would need to confront it head-on.
“I was horrified. Absolutely horrified,” he said. “From the first five seconds of the video I was horrified, and it only became more intense as I continued to watch.”