Commentary  The illusion of discourse

Dear Daily,

Readers have, no doubt, noticed the vast numbers of articles regarding racism published in The Daily this past semester. There has been no shortage of opinions both in published articles and online comments, and this is important. However, there has been a frightening amount of denial of racism from the McGill community. The illusion of discussion does not mean that the voices that need to be heard and believed are heard. This discourse around racism must exist, and it must occur in a way that pushes people to understand the reality of racism. Specifically, people of colour must be allowed to define their own experiences with the assurance that feelings of racism will be believed, and there should be space for them to do so. White people need to acknowledge and believe in the existence of racism and understand that because of their privilege it may be difficult to see the everyday existence of racism. There needs to be a release of the illusion of equality, and an acknowledgement of how racism manifests itself in both overt and subtle ways. It is seen in the aversion of eye-contact, the trailing around a shopping mall, the doubting of experiences, the stereotyped reputations, the bodily exoticization, the existence of othering – the list is endless.

Reading articles regarding racism can be perceived as understanding the effect of racism, but if you are not experiencing it on a daily basis, you can never have lived experience, and you can never fully know it. Anti-racist work is a conscientious action, that must be noted continuously and integrated into daily lifestyle.

In terms of concrete suggestions, the authors – the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) Board  –  would like to see all students pursue anti-racist knowledge. We would like to specifically see the SSMU executives continue to attend specific anti-racist workshops (beyond general anti-oppressive training) throughout the year, to prevent issues such as blackface at 4Floors. We would like more integration of anti-racist work into academic programs, and McGill to make more of an effort to discuss the presence of racism and white supremacy ingrained within the university. We are talking about racism and anti-oppression, but there needs to be a way to hold people to higher standards – to hold people accountable for their actions.

QPIRG is available to offer anti-racist and anti-oppression workshops, amongst others.

Board of Directors of QPIRG McGill