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B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

A former Chilliwack secondary school (CSS) student was disgusted to see a 2021 yearbook comment from a white student comparing graduation to the emancipation of slaves in the United States.

And the school is apologizing for the oversight.

“I’m raising a Black son, I am a Black woman, and I would be disgusted if I was in school and was excited to open up my yearbook and this is what I saw,” Janis Good told The Progress on Monday (June 21).

What she saw, and what all students who ordered a yearbook will see if they haven’t already, is this next to the photo of a white male student’s photo.

“‘We’re Free.’ – The Slaves 1865”

In the U.S., slavery was abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865. June 19, also known as Juneteenth is an annual day to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and celebrate their culture.

A current student of CSS forwarded a screenshot of a Snapchat image of the yearbook page to Good. It came with a comment highly critical of the student for including a reference to slavery with his yearbook photo.

But Good wasn’t surprised.

“It’s just not surprising,” she said. “I graduated in 2015. I’ve seen a lot of racist things happening. It’s kind of almost too normal for a certain group of young men.”

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Good said the low-level racism day-to-day was never overt or extreme, such offhand comments such as the “joking” use of the N-word. But it would just grind at a person over time and particularly in hindsight as she grew up.

“It was the subtle things,” she said. “I mean, we weren’t as educated as we are now and we didn’t talk about it as we do now…. But we take this seriously.”

Asked to comment on the quote printed in the CSS 2020-2021 yearbook, principal Brian Fehlauer admitted the quote was “inappropriate and offensive” but said it was not the fault of the student in question.

“This was an editing error that was missed at the school level,” Fehlauer said in an email. “This was not the quote that the student in question wished to have in the yearbook. We regret that this error was made, and we are sorry for the hurt that this has caused others. Statements such as this do not align with the values of inclusion that we support at Chilliwack Secondary. We are working to further refine protocols so as to prevent statements such as this being published in the future.”

Good said she knows some people think this is a joke, but she doesn’t see it as funny.

“If he meant to say ‘I’m free’ he doesn’t need to mention slaves,” she said. “I don’t see it as a joke.”

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Paul Henderson

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Paul Henderson
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