‘This Is What We’re Doing In 2021?’: Canadian Municipality Apologizes for Tone Deaf Black History Month Scavenger Hunt

A Canadian regional council has apologized after receiving backlash for its “tone-deaf” Black History Month scavenger hunt that challenged employees to carry out certain tasks, including talking to a Black employee and dancing to reggae music.

Officials from the Region of Durham, a municipality 80 miles east of Toronto and home to 645,000 people, released a Black History Month scavenger hunt this month asking employees to complete six activities. The sheet included a picture of the African continent beside the phrase “Rise to the Challenge.”

A Black History Month scavenger released by the Durham Regional Office asked employees to complete six activities. (Image: Desmond Cole/Twitter)

The scavenger hunt challenged employees to complete a variety of tasks between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6 that some people claimed trivializes Black history.

The scavenger hunt called on employees to “Dance to a reggae song,” “cook an African or Caribbean meal,” and “have a conversation with a Black employee.” Responses were then to be emailed to Durham Region’s office by Feb 8. The Durham community is about 70 percent white and 8 percent Black.

Desmond Cole, a Canadian journalist, posted an image of the scavenger hunt to social media, asking, “This what we’re doing in 2021?”

Robyn Maynard, author of “Policing Black Lives” also responded to the scavenger hunt, and wondered about the impact of the activity on Black employees in the office.

Other users poked fun at the matter.

The Region of Durham office initially responded to Cole’s tweet about the scavenger hunt on Feb. 10 without explicitly apologizing for the activity. In a tweet captioned “We hear you,” the office acknowledged that “mistakes were made.”

Region of Durham/Twitter

But after the phrase “scavenger hunt” trended on Twitter, the office addressed the issue more directly and apologized for the activity.

Regional Chair John Henry and Chief Administrative Officer Elaine Baxter-Trahair said in a statement posted to Twitter on Feb. 11, “We’re sorry,” and acknowledged “we made missteps.”

“We will continue to learn and engage with the Black community and Black employees to broaden our knowledge and understanding as we strive to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce. We have a long way to go,” the statement read in part.

Region of Durham/Twitter

Canadian politician Celina Caesar-Chavannes said the activity was an attempt to “trivialize” Black history, and called it an example of “what happens when you do not have enough Black employees around the table” to vet things before they go public.

She also disapproved of the office’s apology, writing on Twitter, “This [apology] is worse than the activity. So much worse. You had a year to do something other that this trivial bulls–t and yet you chose to do it anyway.”

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