Last week’s Daily editorial titled “Cartoons with a context” (January 9, page 19) denounced the mainstream media’s reaction to the Charlie Hebdo events. The totally inoffensive editorial took a good liberal’s standpoint, that is: Islamophobia is bad, and the media shouldn’t frame terrorism to support those dichotomies. Racism was mentioned once, in regards to the content Charlie Hebdo actually puts forth into the world.
Criticizing mainstream media is crucial, but should it make up the message of a whole editorial? The Daily’s editorial board reserves the second last page of every print edition to voice their collective concern, outrage, and calls for action. Throughout this entire academic year, the editorial board has taken no audacious stances – that is, using their platform to incite discussion – but instead, have behaved rather politely.
I start with the Charlie Hebdo editorial also because of its lack of discussion of systemic racism. It is the polite thing to do – the anti-confrontational method of discussing something, without really getting to the heart of the matter. Another, perhaps more productive, way to discuss the Charlie Hebdo case would have been to call out the racist structures that already exist in France and elsewhere, which allow a publication like that to exist in the first place. By addressing the mainstream media as the sole agents of Islamophobia, The Daily removes the impetus of individuals, all of whom are complicit in perpetuating Islamophobia and racism.
The January 19 issue also saw the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag take the front page, which was in reference to the feature article (“Ferguson, mon amour,” page 12-13) that discussed whether racialized police brutality was an all-American issue. Turns out, Canadian prisons also have an overrepresentation of people of colour; and yes, generally speaking, Canadian policies also promote colour-blindness and, thereby, racism.
The feature usually takes the centerfold, and is a work of long-form journalism published once per week. The reflection by Margaret Gilligan is an excellent introductory survey to ways in which discourse on racism is erased on campus. And this discussion needs to be continued and taken further. Remember when The Daily published pieces such as “You are racist”?
Instead of taking to the sidelines of anti-racist discourse, The Daily can seek out those nitty-gritty pieces, the ones that make people uncomfortable, and address racialized experience while presenting ideas about how to keep moving forward. Systemic racism is exemplified qualitatively by statistics of diverse representation, et cetera, but to prove systemic racism in the making is a gesture to the invisible. The term describes an absence, thus all so-called proof of its existence outside lived experience is limited to data that can only be generated retroactively – after the harm is done. It functions to erase the viewpoints and bodies of people of colour from institutional spaces. Not including or soliciting writings on race in an alternative student newspaper such as The Daily is a way to erase that discussion from the university.
I get that an editorial board, with a majority of white members, would have discomfort as non-racialized bodies in taking the reins of promoting anti-racist methods, but that ability to ignore those issues itself is a form of complicit colour-blindness.
Readers’ Advocate is a twice-monthly column written by Hera Chan addressing the performance, relevance, and quality of The Daily. You can reach her at email@example.com.