Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Haute Études Commerciales (HEC) Celebrates Frosh Week With Black Face

In Canada, many function with the myth that we are not racist because our racial history is different from the U.S. We celebrate the underground railroad because that makes the nation look tolerant, while ignoring that slavery was for a time legal in Canada.  Just like any place on the globe, Canada has deep rooted racism that often manifest in the most overt manner and similarly to anywhere else, they are often constructed as isolated incidents.

Imagine how it must have felt to McGill student Anthony Morgan to come across the following "celebration"



Morgan has quite rightfully filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.  I can only hope that they will rule in his favor because what occurred on that campus is without doubt racist. This was a planned event and I believe that they had to know what they were doing was racist but chose to participate anyway.



 Transcript:

Reporter: The video here was shot by a man who is no joining me on the phone, McGill University law student Anthony Morgan, who we should point out is of Jamaican Descent. Anthony, we say the video but I want you take me there. In that moment you just happened to be walking by this field and what precisely that prompted you take out your camera and start recording?
Anthony: Well it was simply the thought that nobody would believe me, I felt immediately that this was happening on a university campus. I was shocked and horrified and I didn't think that I would be able to accurately convey just how significant these students action were if I didn't pull it out and have a record to show other people.
Reporter: Was there a crowd of people with you walking by? What was the reaction? What didn't we see on camera and also did you talk to any of these students who were chanting here? I mean a lot of folks would say that these are just goofy college students, they didn't realize what they were doing. What did they say?
Anthony: Well initially when I was walking, I was walking by myself and there are other students on campus and nobody - it seemed to not dawn on anybody that there was anything wrong with this but as I walked there were a few Black students who were on campus at the time and we sort of just froze and looked at each other really quickly. And it was just sort of like a quick communication thing that you can't quite articulate - wondering what do you do? Do you address this, do you not and I ultimately decided that it wouldn't be a good idea for me to just walk up to one of these students because I didn't want to create a hostile situation and I also recognize that the students weren't acting out of knowledge but simply out of a lack of education and understanding about what the symbol their representing means in a historical context of the denigration and dehumanization of Black people.
Reporter: I want to get to that in a minute, but I do want to read something that the school says is look as they mention, this is part of spirit week. These students were trying to emulate Usain Bolt. Uh the HEC - this is the school where the men and women are students. They released a statement saying that the incident does not reflect the values of the business school or its students. They go on to say, and I am going to read this specifically, they say they "Unfortunately, they unintentionally and unknowingly went about this in a way that touched upon some sensitivities." Anthony, umm is that good enough?
Anthony: Well that certainly not good enough which is why I am pleased to note that as of yesterday the university administration - the secretary general actually went on television and accepted that the acts were actually racist and unacceptable by the students and they've taken responsibility by committing to incorporating sensitivity awareness, racial sensitivity training and things of that nature and looking at a long term policy framework that they can implement at the school, so that something like this doesn't happen again. So those are new developments that happened just last night. I spoke with the secretary general and I accepted his apology, but of course there's the long term that we have to look towards and see what the details of their plan are, and actually see if things are carried out in an effective way.
The university's initial response tells me that there weren't prepared to take this matter seriously until they were forced to by the threat of the human rights board and media attention.  How could anyone unknowingly perform Black face, pretend to smoke pot and speak with a false Jamaican accent?  When it became clear that this matter was not going to disappear suddenly they were ready to apologize and pull out the standby of sensitivity training. Uh huh. I for one am sick of the fucking sensitivity training that gets nowhere.  The majority of the kids attending that university went to school in Canada and this means they have already been subject to hours of supposed "sensitivity training already."

Not only was Morgan triggered watching that clearly racist display, he now has to invest his time and energy ensuring that the university live up to its weak promises. This shit is exactly why Blacks die younger. We spend a lifetime dealing with the racist nonsense of White people and then chasing after them in the hopes that they will do the human thing and correct their behaviour.

If the university really wanted to punish the students involved, they would issue some kind of sanction on the students involved, and at the very least restrict this organizations access to campus.  This group of students made campus actively an unsafe space for all Black people in attendance.  Their actions constituted an unsafe learning environment, and since Blacks happen to pay tuition as well, they deserve better than this for their money.  As it is, the response is just another wishy washy denial of how damaging racism is in this country.  If you cannot hold those students accountable for their racist behaviour, how can you possibly claim that the situation is being handled?