A Reflection on Campus Racism

This past Tuesday, I attended Western’s BSA’s Reflection on #Westernlivesmatter and the effects of racism on Western’s campus, as well as in the London community. This reflection was attended by students, faculty, USC representatives, and even the mayor of the city of London.

Some background on myself: I am of half Filipino, and half Irish descent. I often joke to my friends about being the “minority” or being the “ethnic one” when in fact I know nothing about what any of that really means. In fact, I hardly know anything about the experience of racism, as became clear after hearing my fellow students speak about their experiences.

The “Western Lives Matter” banner, which first appears to be a harmless joke, actually comes with implications that run much deeper than that. This is something I did not realize myself, until listening to the voices of my classmates who were so affected by the sign’s lighthearted treatment of the Black Lives Matter movement. To make a joke of a serious social movement that protests the unjust deaths at the hands of racism, is in extremely poor taste. It is impossible to equate #blacklivesmatter with a university’s homecoming date change. It is incredibly disrespectful, whether intended or not.

Yet, the racism occurring on our campus and in the London community goes beyond this incident and can be so subtle, that if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you might miss it. Former student, Eternity Martis, in a Vice article gone viral, wrote about being called “Shaniqua” and “Blackish,”; about her boyfriend being called a n*gger “over 20 times”; and about girls in her class offended about having a lecture discussing slavery because “it’s done,” and we should “get over it.” Comments on the article, written in support and solidarity further prove that her Western experience, is not unlike that of many other black students who face exclusion and the effects of stereotyping on a daily basis.

It is disappointing that it took the “foco” #Westernlivesmatter incident for me to decide that I should look deeper into what’s going on around me. I would be lying if I said that I immediately took up arms as soon as I saw the picture surface in an online article.

During the reflection, the comment was made that students may passively look upon racism, but they don’t really see it. For a lot of my time here at Western, I have been one of those people that did not gage the presence and severity of this issue. It is not out of apathy that this occurs. I believe that it all comes down to perspective; what I see as a woman of mixed race is not what a white man sees, is not what a black woman sees, and so on. If we are not exposed to the existence of micro aggressions, it’s hard to know that they are always there.

We can no longer blame our lack of action on lack of awareness. As students attending a university that is supposed to encourage diversity and acceptance, it is our duty to be observant and mindful of the way we act, and of the actions of those around us. We must overcome our passivity, and stand up when something isn’t right. At the end of the day, we are all equal members of the Western student community, and we have a responsibility to each other to make the school a safe and accepting space for everyone.