Encounters with racism and acceptance at Mt. A

Mt. A and Sackville community are friendly and welcoming, but work still remains to be done

Whether it is a black man being beaten by the police or a Muslim woman being subjected to Islamophobic defamation on a train, acts of racism occur in every corner of the world. We are getting used to seeing videos displaying it on social media and maybe we are all – including those of us of colour – numbed at this point.

As a person of colour, I don’t know whether I should be grateful or ashamed that I have also become numbed after having spent only four years at Mount Allison. Over the years, I have gradually lost the sense that racial supremacy exists in society. I discovered that in Sackville I would no longer be put into situations where I would despair of being Asian, look around and distinguish people by the colour of their skin rather than their personalities. This is something I used to experience from time to time in New Zealand, where I completed my secondary education.

I think the Mt. A community has been more successful than other universities at accepting non-white students and not discriminating against them because of their nationality or the colour of their skin. The establishment of the Anti-Racism Education & Response Team as a part of the new Racism and Racial Harassment Prevention and Response Policy demonstrates the University’s commitment not only to the eradication of racism, but also to using education as a long-term action to tackle the essence of racism, which is ignorance.

The Canadian stereotype of being polite and friendly probably contributes to the feeling of acceptance in Sackville, because the community and the students from across Canada have shown me that it’s not just a stereotype. So, this is why the column Another Feminist Killjoy Writing About Race and Justice, written by a fellow student of colour at Mt. A, got me questioning what the necessity of purposely identifying people like us as the “visible minority” is, what she means by “space for people of color” and whether the “discomfort” is simply a product of Mt. A’s smaller ethnocultural diversity compared to larger universities, rather than a lack of effort made by the community.

I have experienced racism on multiple occasions in the past. Just a few weeks ago, I was surprisingly called a “whaler” on Bridge Street. Whether I reluctantly laughed it off or retorted in anger, I knew neither response would’ve been productive, as it would not be helping to make a fundamental change. Being a target of racism sucks, and explaining it to the people who haven’t had to worry about experiencing racism can be an uneasy task. My advice to those who wish to advocate for the eradication of racism is to recognize that your frustration could discourage those who are racist from having a productive conversation. We must keep in mind that they are the ones who could use your help to acknowledge that racism comes from their own ignorance. This is not to say we cannot be frustrated about it, but the eradication of racism cannot be achieved without our encouragement to help racists acknowledge their prejudiced attitudes. A community like Mt. A’s could be a great place to start the conversation. If we want to make an impact in fighting racism, we should all work together to create a space where those who experience racism can initiate the dialogue.

Opportunity to make a change is at every corner of campus if you want to see it. I was in a washroom stall sitting on the toilet in the library when I saw a poster stuck on the door that said, “The Argosy is student-run, mostly white, mostly female. The Argosy wants to be more diverse.” I was delighted by this kind of approach.

Taking the time to talk and learn about others’ experiences and perspectives is an important aspect of unlearning racist behaviours. Sarah Noonan/Argosy
Chihiro Muranaka