By Sathya Siva
What do you think of when you hear the word saint? Do you think of high-school? A football team? How about a public school logo? Yeah, I didn’t think so. When I think of a saint, I think of a ‘holy person’ depicted in Christianity who is supposedly ‘close to God’. So is our school logo promoting Christianity?
If Richview Collegiate Institute is an all inclusive, secular and public high school, then why is our primary logo an angel? Why are we called the Richview Saints?
The truth is, this has been our school name since 1958. That is ten years before the equal rights movement. At that time, Richview students predominantly identified as Christian.
Some individuals may argue that we should stay connected to our roots, and that we shouldn’t be quick to erase the past. But things have changed, and our school now includes various cultures and religions. Therefore, using a Christian symbol to represent our school is not only non-inclusive but an inaccurate representation of our present student body.
I think we can all agree that things have changed since the 1950s, society has evolved quite a bit, especially after the equal rights movement. After the anti-discrimination law was passed, various other social issues started to come into the light as well. Discrimination against LGBTQ community and the cultural appropration of Indigenous culture are among the additional issues we face.
The Washington state football team, formerly known as the Redskins, had to change their team name because it was offensive to the culture of the Indigenous community. Many sports teams (such as the Chicago Blackhawks, the Cleveland Indians etc.) are now looking for a new name due to awareness about using Indigenous influenced names for recreational purposes. Using words or ideas that are sacred to one’s culture as entertainment, contributes to the invalidation of a person’s belief system.
The cultural appropriation in the scenario above is pretty obvious. And perhaps calling Richview students ‘saints’ isn’t as obvious to many, however, that doesn’t make the fact any less offensive to some.
My suggestion of all-inclusivity is also not to be confused with a suggestion that we should include all religions in our logo. There are many atheists that also attend our school. In this case to support everyone, we shouldn’t include any religious symbol at all. If we are a secular school, (and we are because publicly funded schools must be secular) we can’t exclude anyone, including people who don’t follow a religion at all. This would mean changing the logo to represent no religions at all.
In addition to not being allowed to display any religion, you are also ignoring and negating the beliefs of others. In this case, the only group represented at all is the Christian community. I find this to be completely invalidating any idea of a ‘secular’ public school.
There is such a diverse population of people that currently attend Richview. And school is a place where you are supposed to be yourself, a place where you don’t have to repress your beliefs. Nevertheless, the school as a whole is forced to identify with something that only affiliates with a part of the school’s students. Those students, who do not identify as Christian will feel overlooked and disregarded because they aren’t fairly represented in their own school.
The TDSB Equity Policy is committed to the elimination of institutional discrimination and promotion of fairness, equity, acceptance and inclusion. The goal of this policy is to ensure that fairness, equity, diversity, acceptance, inclusion, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination are essential principles of our school system and are integrated into all TDSB policies, procedures, programs, operations, and practices. Our logo goes against that and is therefore invalidating that policy.
I’m not trying to erase the past. I’m not saying we should get rid of old pictures and banners just because they were taken in a time of segregation and inequality towards people of colour. And I’m not saying we should invalidate Christianity either. However, I do think that we should get rid of inaccurate representations of our school community.
Richview is mandated under law to be an all inclusive, secular school that is required to include everyone’s beliefs. Changing our symbol would be a show of good faith (pun intended), that we as a school community are capable of growth. That though we are a product of our past, we are not solely defined by it.