The Deal with Casual Racism on College Campuses

Edited by Sophia Savva

Netflix’s hit series Dear White People has been making conversation since its debut in 2017 for its honest, upfront approach to the realities of social injustice, discrimination and cultural bias on America’s college campuses. The series showcases and portrays real-life situations faced by people of colour, taking a somewhat humorous yet serious approach on racial politics that linger in the era of #WOKE and social movements such as Black Lives Matter. While critics and audience members are quick to criticize the actions of these shows as ‘provocative,’ TV shows like this fuel the conversation regarding instances of discrimination in real life.

Casual racism is a certain type of conduct that perpetuates negative stereotypes and racial superiority in everyday conversation and interactions. Things like off-handed jokes, comments and exclusion can be considered instances of casual racism.

As a woman of colour, I recognize that I do have certain privileges that my fellow Filipina women do not have: being able to attend and afford tuition at a prestigious university, having the means to participate in my school’s Greek life, having the time and resources to participate in personal projects and living in the same city as a majority of my immediate family. However, that does not mean that I am not exempt from racial and social discrimination.

I’ve been told that I speak English ‘very well’ (as if that is a compliment) even though I was born and raised in Toronto and happen to major in English. When people ask about my background, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is ‘My nanny/maid/housekeeper is Filipino,’ as if reinforcing stereotypes will spark an automatic connection. I’ve also been told by that I’m ‘really pretty for a Filipino girl’, complimenting my 5’7 stature and olive skin tone while silently judging common Asian features. It especially irks me whenever someone completely butchers or mocks a phrase in Tagalog, expecting me to somehow understand.

Comments and actions such as these expemplify that we simply do not ‘live in a post-racial society’: instances of racism and prejudice still exist in our world and they cannot be ignored. Though larger institutions such as universities were built upon exclusive, racist ideas, we need to be able to acknowledge these wrongdoings while moving forward and addressing discriminatory actions. We need to acknowledge that certain groups benefit from this system while others are at a disadvantage. It is our responsibility as a society to build an inclusive system and use our privileges to empower and uplift our fellow community members.