Surrey teacher Michael Musherure shares his experiences with racism, including incidents at school district. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey teacher Michael Musherure shares his experiences with racism, including incidents at school district. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

‘If we are quiet, we aren’t changing the situation,’ B.C.teacher says of racism he’s faced

Surrey school district hopes to have ‘clear action in place’ by the fall

Michael Musherure, now an English teacher at Earl Marriott Secondary, says there’s “nothing more powerful” than speaking your truth.

He’s done just that, speaking out for the first time about some of the racism he’s experienced here in Surrey – in and out of the classroom.

READ ALSO: ‘Racism, it destroys your soul’: Surrey man looks to youth for change, June 6, 2020

By Musherure speaking out, the Surrey school district is looking at what it can do going forward to denounce racism and be “actively anti-racist,” said Superintendent Jordan Tinney.

On June 4, Musherure tweeted that he has been egged, called the the N-word and “threatened to be shot at my place of work.”

That was the first time he’d openly spoke about the racism he’s faced over the years, said Musherure, who is from Uganda but also lived in Norway prior to moving to Canada.

The egging incident happened when he was a student in Norway, but the others happened since he’s been a teacher in Surrey.

When Musherure was working at Semiahmoo Secondary School in 2011, he asked a student to do his work, but the student said he wasn’t going to do it “because you’re black.”

“I thought he was kidding because it was very blatant,” Musherure recalled in an interview with the Surrey Now-Leader.

After asking the student twice more and getting the same response, he requested help from the administration office.

Shortly after the student was taken to the office, Musherure said he was told to lock himself in his room because he was on “code yellow.” Then the whole school went on “code red.”

Musherure was told that the student “threatened to get a gun and shoot him.”

Following the incident, there was supposed to be a debrief for staff about why a code red was called, but Musherure alleges he wasn’t included in the email from the principal.

He said the principal “constructs an absolutely different story, and I was not part of that plot,” adding that it was a “big lie about an agitated student and removed me from the narrative.”

“The shocking part to me there was me not being a part of the story and then not even curtesy to come and say to me, ‘I’m sorry this has happened to you and we are going to follow through.’”

Musherure didn’t file a complaint with the union at the time because he didn’t have a continuing contract and feared speaking out would threaten future job opportunities.

This wasn’t the last racist incident the teacher faced. Musherure said he was called the N-word at Princess Margaret and given an award for having the “Best Accent.”

READ ALSO: ‘He is going to change the world’: Hundreds attend funeral held for George Floyd, June 9, 2020

“If talk about subtleties of racism I go through everyday, it could take us a day and another.”

Musherure, who now teaches English at Earl Marriott Secondary, said people always ask him why he’s smiling.

“If I was to show my anger, then I’m the angry, black person all the time. Therefore, I put on a mask and smile everyday. I smile, but it’s not a smile. I’m just extending my lips.”

But all of that changed as anti-racism protests started taking place around the world following the death of George Floyd, who died while being restrained by police in Minneapolis.

“People say that racism is not here [in Canada]. If we are quiet, we aren’t changing the situation. If each one of us, can tell their truth, their experiences, then people will know… then you stop living in denial,” he explained.

Musherure wants to see a more diverse teaching staff and curriculum in B.C.

“Maybe we need to make it more inclusive and have Black literature, we have more Asian literature, we have more minority literature.”

Tinney admitted the Surrey district has more work to do despite the “number of resources that deal with racism.” For instance, schools still use “In the Heat of the Night” by John Ball, which uses the N-word.

“Is it something that we should still do?”

Tinney said Surrey does “lots and lots at the district around discrimination, multiculturalism and inclusion,” but the message now needs to be focussed on anti-racism.

One way to achieve this in the 2020-21 school year could be by hosting open forums that “create a safe vessel for people to come and tell their stories,” as suggested through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“What I don’t want to do is say, ‘Gee, this has happened. It’s huge. It’s super important and here’s a three-point action plan to address it.’ It’s way bigger than that.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

racismSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

The intersection of Despard Avenue and Moilliet Street, where a child was struck and injured in November 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)
High-traffic Parksville intersection to get temporary 4-way stop

City staff to monitor effectiveness of traffic-calming measure at Despard and Moilliet

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Nanaimo flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

A motorcycle instructor going through a traffic cone course. (Photo courtesy of BC Traffic Services)
B.C. Traffic Services reminds drivers to share the road with motorcyclists

36 riders are killed in 2,400 crashes involving motorcycles on B.C. roads every year

Most Read