A group of Black students in Calgary, Alberta, have been suspended after their principal used the N-word.
In a recording obtained by CBC News, Lianne Anderson, the principal of St. Michael Elementary and Junior High School, addresses the group of students and questions why they’re allowed to use the slur.
“So how come it’s OK for you to say (the N-word)?” Anderson says in the recording.
After the recording was posted online by one of the student’s family members, the students were suspended. The principal is still working at the school.
Tania Van Brunt, a spokesperson for the Calgary Catholic School District, said the students had violated the board’s student code of conduct that “doesn’t allow the possession, selling, accessing, or sharing of any audio or audio visual recording of any individual without their consent.”
She then apologized for the slur and said the district’s racial justice committee will review the incident.
When asked how the principal would have been held to account if the students didn’t record the discussion, Van Brunt said, “There would have been continued discussion.”
“It’s inappropriate language for anybody to be using and we're doing things to ensure it doesn't happen again in any of our schools,” she said.
Van Brunt did not know whether the suspended students had been allowed back to school yet.
The recording surfaced at a time when Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are recording the often violent racism they experience out of fear that justice and accountability will not be served otherwise. Earlier this week, an Indigenous woman recorded her dying moments while two nurses made racist comments about her.
Anti-Black racism activist Adora Nwofor told CBC News that because Black people can use the N-word, the discussion between the suspended students and the principal shouldn't have happened in the first place.
"It is a word that we are reclaiming that was used to oppress people, and if you are not Black and you are using that word, you are using it as an oppressor and it means you have privilege," Nwofor said. "If you have privilege and you use that word, you are being an oppressor and you're being racist, quite frankly."
Earlier in the summer, the CBC’s Wendy Mesley allegedly used the word twice, including during an editorial meeting about race. After the news broke, Mesley apologized, said she had been quoting a peer, and called her actions “careless.”
At the time, several journalists said these incidents expose the insidious nature of systemic racism.
“Using a racial slur at work re-traumatizes BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) & weaponizes the space to protect someone like Wendy, while leaving BIPOC journalists to feel unseen, unheard & unsafe,” said CBC journalist Imani Walker.
Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.