"Degrassi" is a popular Canadian drama following high school students through all of their coming-of-age glory. The series ran for 14 seasons under the name "The Next Generation," then for another four years under the name "Next Class" (a Netflix original series). Say what you will about "Next Class" in comparison to the OG series, but both offer realistic and empathetic views on traumatic, inspiring, and beautiful human moments.
It also takes us through all the goofiness that is growing up.
For most of the show's run, however, race and racism were left out of the scripts. However, there were seven characters that took on storylines that highlight racism or privilege. Unfortunately, it wasn't until later seasons that the show took these real life scenarios on. Those characters deserve an homage - not for being racist, but for shedding light.
1. Frankie and Hunter
Frankie and Hunter Hollingsworth were really the first characters to portray the story of white privilege on "Degrassi Next Class." Frankie draws a racist photo of an African American volleyball player at a rival school (portraying the girl as a monkey). Frankie avoids the issue for a long time, plays the victim, and manages to say a series of privileged statements throughout the process of coming to terms with her racism. Her story is an important reminder of our conditioning as youth and how easy it is to buy into prejudices if we don't actively try and live antiracist lifestyles.
Frankie's twin, Hunter, goes off on a rant meant to defend himself, but he pulls Goldi, a muslim student, down with him. The school's video game club becomes censored because of the violence portrayed in the games. Hunter attempts to make a point about how they shouldn't have to make sure everyone is comfortable since there are things in high school, or just in life in general, but he ends up being incredibly racist in the process.
These three played such an important role on "Degrassi Next Class." These seasons take place after some bombings in Syria. Refugees take shelter in Toronto and at Degrassi Community School. This stirs up really important racial topics that had not occurred on the show before (i.e. when everyone assumes Goldi must know about suicide bombers because she's Muslim, or when students assume Saad will be radicalized because he spoke in Arabic while he was frustrated).
Rasha acts as a great reminder that just because someone is Muslim, it doesn't mean they will look or act a certain way. For instance, she is a lesbian and does not wear a hijab to school. She reminds us to get to know someone before buying into prejudices.
Mike Dallas was the victim of racial profiling in the thirteenth season of "The Next Generation" when a threat occurs at the mall, and all African-American teens are questioned. Later on in the same episode, Dallas and Connor (another POC character on the show) are driving to the science fair and are pulled over for no reason. This causes Dallas to break down a little because it's not his first time being targeted.
4. Danny and Liberty
Siblings Liberty and Danny Van Zandt were used to
When Liberty went away to university, she was scouted by a sorority solely because of her race. They assumed she came from a "ghetto" background, and there was an incredibly cringy moment where two white girls begged Liberty to teach them how to dance to
Her little brother, Danny, is the victim of prejudice when a cashier nearly didn't allow him in the store because of his skin color and was noticeably nervous/weary of him. She also accuses him of stealing. This is in part due to his "best friend," Derek, who pulled a prank. Danny teaches a great lesson on things white kids don't have to think about in this episode.
You'll just have to fish out the ol' Canadian classic to learn more about all that.