On January 19, UTMSU held the latest edition of their “Real Talks” series. The session focused on reverse racism and UTM students were invited to participate in the discussion, which took place in room 270 of the Student Centre.
Students participated in discussion on pre-planned topics of prejudice, discrimination, privilege, personal experience, and the significance of definitions.
Roughly 25 students were present and the majority defined key terms such as racism, reverse racism, prejudice, and “whiteness” based on their own experiences.
Earlier this year, there was controversy over the term “reverse racism” after UTMSU’s Racialized Student Coalition posted a definition on its Facebook page claiming the term does not exist.
UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe said that UTMSU’s goal is to educate and, “Whenever it’s time to talk about racialized people, people always ask, ‘What about white people?’ We don’t hate white people, it’s just about empowering the racialized folks. In terms of having hate or having racialized prejudice, that’s not the goal of the racialized coalition […] It’s not hate, it’s just a different form of empowerment.”
“The university encourages students to engage in conversations and academic dialogues, to have different perspectives on these issues, and it is within UTMSU’s rights to engage in these conversations,” stated UTM’s equity and diversity officer, Nythalah Baker, in an email to The Medium last semester.
When asked how “whiteness” is defined, Agbeyegbe said it is what is considered to be the norms of society.
“Whiteness is in my opinion what we see around us every day […] There is Eurocentrism that is depicted around us,” he said, adding that it’s seen in the education system, language, and other parts of Canadian culture.
The RSC defines “white” in visible terms because according to Agbeyegbe, even those who are “white passing” (appear European but are not) have privileges not afforded to those who appear to be of colour. However, Agbeyegbe notes that in the end, “it’s all about what you experience”.
The group strives to “talk about how to educate other racialized students on campus about the issues [happening] on campus” and Agbeyegbe indicated that on an ethnically diverse campus such as UTM, it is important to mobilize and reach out to different ethnic groups.
Past meetings have constituted of discussion on a wide range of topics such as the discrimination complaint process, segregated events, and workshops to unite different ethnic student associations.
Baker confirmed that the Equity and Diversity Office would be working with UTMSU to address issues with the discrimination complaint process.
“We are co-creating a document for distribution to their members that outlines steps students can take if they have concerns about race-based discrimination or harassment. We’re hoping to complete this process in the winter term. Our offices would also welcome the opportunity to meet with students or the UTMSU to discuss any other concerns they may have,” Baker wrote in her email.