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A question of resistance and resilience


FRANCOPRESSE – Anti-Black racism is rooted in the history of post-secondary institutions. Disciplines like anthropology, health, psychology and even politics have led to studies and debates on racial issues. Sadly, many have been conducted in an unethical and sometimes degrading manner. Today, several researchers could gain by confessing their wrongs in the face of racism. The accumulation of missteps causes resistance.

Paige Galette, columnist – Francopresse

I myself, as a black person, dare not speak out in this discussion about the right to use the word n * gre. It’s strange, isn’t it?

All lovers ofHarry potter understand why we cannot name “The-Whose-We-Must-Not-Pronounce-The-Name”. But, for the word not*, so that’s another story!

This word evokes strong emotions and reminds the black community that we are still seen, in 2020, as inferior, while we only seek to be treated with dignity and respect.

If today we are able to denounce, once again, the full use of the word not*, no matter the context or the place where it is pronounced, it is because we are facing a moment of resistance and resilience. We are leading and continuing the fight, despite injustices of all kinds.

Being Black shouldn’t be a matter of curiosity. To say no to this outdated debate is to say no to continuing to be examined at the Sarah Baartman. Our Blackness is not a subject of debate nor a subject of research. We are worthy and have a right to respect.

Here I have already said too much. Because several other columnists have done so in mainstream and social media, and many black teachers and students have spoken out and are worth reading and listening to.

Educate yourself! Read! Take the time to think it over!

“This situation of anti-black racism is not an isolated case at the University of Ottawa,” wrote columnist Francopresse Paige Galette. Credit: Simon Séguin-Bertrand – Archives Le Droit

Some examples

This situation of anti-black racism is not an isolated case at the University of Ottawa.

In 2014, Professor Denis Rancourt was found guilty for having made racist remarks about Professor Joanne St. Lewis in a blog post in 2011. The speech that followed came at the expense of black people.

A few weeks after the events, a racist graffiti appeared on campus.

In June 2019, the University of Ottawa hit the headlines while a black student got arrested by campus security. An arrest characterized as racial profiling. The rector, Jacques Frémont, then denounced the act in question and offered his apologies.

Again, last week a hateful graffiti appeared on campus.

How can we have the mental and physical space to speak about the “right” to use a word that continues to hurt and evoke strong emotions, even violent emotions?

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Solutions to think about

What avenues of solution remain for the University of Ottawa (and other post-secondary institutions)?

1- Put in place policies condemning discriminatory and racist gestures and comments. Raise awareness of the consequences of these gestures and words. Policies that impose a culture for employees and academic staff.

2- Compulsory programs or courses for a better understanding of the issues that affect racialized people.

3- Diversity in hiring: according to the Union of Ontario University Teachers’ Associations (OCUFA), post-secondary institutions are used to hiring racialized people in part-time, contract positions, instead of permanent positions. Ensuring balanced diversity, whether in leadership, academic or support positions, would limit racist scandals for these institutions and allow for the establishment of a feeling of well-being for students and staff.

4- It is essential that post-secondary institutions obtain data on ethnicity! How can we create change if we do not know our starting point? This data may include the number of racialized members of faculties, management, employees and students, as well as salaries. This data will also allow us to assess whether there are wage gaps between racialized employees and others.

5- Respond to the needs already expressed by the students as well as the members of the faculties. In 2018, the University of Ottawa filed a report on human rights equity. Already, the university community has spoken out about its need to address the issue of racism on campus. Time to put these suggestions into action, right? Or are we waiting for a new and bigger scandal?

Our Blackness is not a curiosity or a subject of academic research. Our Blackness is our pride, our history, our strength, our beauty, our dignity. Have a debate on the use of the word not*is to reduce our Blackness for the sake of that hateful word.

Paige Galette is a national anti-racism and anti-oppression community activist and educator. His chapter From Cheechako to Sourdough: Reflections on Northern Living and Surviving while being Black is found in the delivered Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada (Diverlus, Hudson, Ware).


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