There is no denying that the 2016-17 school year was fucking rough: it was rife with political and social turmoil on every level, and our campus was no exception. There is actually a circle of hell where we relive this year over and over again, for the rest of eternity. Despite it all, we have seen inspiring forms of resistance manifest in our campus communities and beyond. These displays of resilience and solidarity should be acknowledged, celebrated and sustained as we enter the summer months and face the coming years. However, if these instances of resilience are to grow into movements, we will have to be self-critical, fiercely courageous, and willing to set new standards for ourselves.
The movements and organizing efforts that took place this year – whether at McGill or in the broader Montreal community – have been important in advancing issues and causes that, contrary to popular belief, have not suddenly sprung up this past year, but have been years in the making. We can look back on 2016-2017 and note the concerted anti-Islamophobia efforts in the face of the ongoing anti-Muslim policies and violence in both North America and Europe; the Montreal contingent of the women’s march, which came in response to Trump’s global abortion gag order, as well as the anti-fascist organizing efforts that aimed to counter hate speech and actions on behalf of fascist groups mobilizing in Montreal. Furthermore, one of the highlights of organizing efforts this year at McGill has been the AMUSE strike, and ensuing Floor Fellow actions, which demanded and successfully negotiated greater access to job security and adequate compensation for student and casual employees, as well as floor fellows, at the University.
Activism and the resistance to these entrenched systems of oppression is exhausting, confusing, and complicated. While we’re well-meaning, we often lose sight of what it is we’re working towards and why. As a result, the way we approach our social justice work can perpetuate the very conditions we’re striving to dismantle. Many activist movements, whether driven by feminist, anti-racist, or class-resisting sentiments, have historically been exclusive and inaccessible to marginalized groups. This is an issue within activism, including anti-Islamophobia work, which centres light-skinned Muslim people while ignoring Black and dark-skinned Muslim people. There is a growing awareness of the failings of our activism – for example, the widespread critiques of the women’s marches and strike that centred wealthy cis white women – but these critiques must manifest as concrete change at our marches, meetings, and demos.
Organizing can feel difficult and hopeless, but our activism is not in vain. The well-being and survival of our society depends on collective action and continued support of one another in the face of adversity. Advocacy works by speaking up, and more importantly showing up and putting your body on the line for others if your are privileged and able. It’s not necessarily about direct results – it’s about trying. It’s about the small ways in which people feel supported by what we’re doing – that is worth it in itself. In writing our last editorial of the year, we call for continued resistance in the face of systemic oppressions – resistance against Islamophobia, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia. Furthermore, we call for inclusive resistances that are able to grow, and hopefully be carried into the future.