Two white students at Ryerson University in Toronto were barred last week from a meeting of the Racialized Students’ Collective, a group that, according to its Facebook page, is dedicated to “building an anti-racism community on campus.” The student newspaper, the Ryersonian, reports that Trevor Hewitt and Julia Knope, both first-year journalism students, claim they were told that because they were not victims of racialization, they were not allowed to attend the meeting and report on the event.
Hewitt and Knope said they made eye contact with an unidentified woman who appeared to be setting up for the event. She approached Hewitt and Knope and asked if they had ever been racialized.
Hewitt said he then told the woman he wanted to cover the meeting for an assignment. He said the woman told him that because he was not a racialized student, he could not sit in on the meeting. Hewitt and Knope then left the room.
It’s hard to understand how excluding outsiders, and especially would-be racists, from the meeting advances the group’s goal of —again according to the website — “fostering an anti-racist environment through campus-wide services, campaigns and events.” Absent an outside viewpoint, how can meetings be anything more than an airing of grievances? RSU coordinator Vajdaan Tanveer, when asked about the imposed segregation, seemed to confirm that that’s exactly what transpires, telling the Ryersonian:
We don’t want [racialized] students to feel intimidated, that they can’t speak their mind because they are afraid of being judged or something they say might be used against them.
Finally there is a troubling assumption underlying the shibboleth behind Hewitt’s and Knope’s exclusion that only people of color can be “racialized.” Following the death of Trayvon Martin, there were dozens of instances in which black gangs physically attacked and severely beat randomly selected white males. In several cases, the white victim died. Would RSC rationalize that these were somehow “payback,” rather than racist hate crimes? And even if they did, how would they would explain away the rash of “knockouts” that were all the rage in 2014?
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