Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reverse The Colors and See If It's Still OK

I don't accept that universities should tolerate, much less condone, separation of the races.  When we say that one group of people can do something or go somewhere and another group can't--that truly cannot be justified in my egalitarian mind.  I understand being a minority, but that shouldn't give you rights, privileges, or entitlements that everyone else doesn't get in a country like ours.  Certain groups don't like it when I bring up Dr. King's color-of-skin-vs-content-of-character remark, but I actually believe in it.

That's why I find stories like this one so appalling:
Ethnic Minorities Deserve Safe Spaces Without White People

Last week The Ryersonian reported on an incident that involved two first-year journalism students who were turned away from an event organized by Racialized Students' Collective because they are white. Since then there has been a lot of commentary on the piece and a lot of debate -- a lot of the criticism is valid.

There are two sides to the story: 1) the media has a right to attend public events and report on matters that are in the public interest. The student media needs to cover initiatives that are happening on campus so that we draw attention to them and in turn create awareness (The Ryersonian reported that one student said he was covering the meeting for an assignment). 2) Marginalized groups have a right to claim spaces in the public realm where they can share stories about the discrimination they have faced without judgment and intrusion from anyone else.

I am a person of colour and a journalist and so there are two conflicting voices inside my head. But in this case one voice, that of a person of colour, is louder and my conscience does not allow me to be impartial. I have to take a side.

The organizers of the event, the Racialized Students' Collective, should have done a better job of labelling this event as a safe space on the Ryerson Students' Union online calendar. They should label safe spaces clearly and maybe even host events that educate the public on what they mean. Doing so will help the public and the media have a better understanding of the purpose and value of these spaces.

However, the point to note is not that two white students were asked to leave the event, but rather that this was a safe space and that we as a newsroom, as a campus and as a society are not as knowledgeable as we should be about what these spaces mean.
The author is putting lipstick on a pig, trying to defend the indefensible.


Anonymous said...

While attending a very large, flagship state university, my Spanish-minor DD and a Spanish-major friend, attempted to attend a publicly-advertized program sponsored by the campus Hispanic/Latino student group. They were immediately ordered to leave, in a very hostile and threatening manner. The hostility was even higher when she attempted to attend a Black Student Union event, with a black friend (who left with her and never returned). This was in direct opposition to her/their reception at many of the Asian and Jewish events, despite DD being neither Asian nor Jewish. DD founded a Spanish culture club, open to anyone wishing to speak Spanish at their events (and was ignored by most Hispanics/Latinos)but which not only improved her Spanish, but gave her valuable experience writing up a mission statement, funding request and presenting same (successfully) to the student government board.

Jean said...

While I really disagree with the whole privilege/safe space idea--practically everything she said in the article--I'm not sure what to think. Wouldn't this count as a freedom of association thing? If you can have a club that is Democrats or Communists or Libertarians-only, can you have a black-people-only club? (And yeah, a white-people-only club too.) I mean, I really really dislike it, and I'm against segregation of races. But I'm not sure that it isn't a case of freedom of association.

pseudotsuga said...

This student ought to realize that she is credentialed, but not educated.
She can't even look at her own writing critically and spot the problems, because she has been trained to posture rather than think.

Darren said...

Jean: private parties (associations) are one thing, school sponsored events are another. We don't let businesses post "no coloreds allowed" signs for the same reason.

maxutils said...

The most insulting thing to me is that a minority group at a college pick your minority) actually is pathetic enough at dealing with any sort of conflict to need a 'safe space,' and that they the gall to feel entitled to one.

You do have a safe space: your dorm room or your apartment, and you can invite anyone you like. Or, you can go over to a friend's … or you can rent out a room at the university, like every other group on campus.

But, obviously, the most relevnt thing is thst it's illegal to keep people out based on race once you've publicized it in a non-private space …

Ellen K said...

A school event using school facilities should, in theory, be open to all. I have to wonder if this group would be happy if all the Swedish kids or German kids or Irish kids staged an event and told them to leave? The concept of a safe space is peachy except it in no way reflects the real world. If you cannot participate and associate with people from all kinds of backgrounds including white middle class kids, then I think it's time to retire the term "university" because there's nothing universal about it anymore.