Friday, February 28th 2014, OTTAWA – This statement is to provide further explanation to the In My Skin campaign and the Ice Breaker events that were posted on Facebook yesterday.
The In My Skin campaign seeks to address the very real issues of racism on our campus which students of colour face on a daily basis. This campaign will include many different styles of events from discussion groups, to panels, to breakout groups.
Leading up to this campaign, the SFUO has heard calls from many students of colour who recognize that discussions of racism often happen in large open groups and that while these spaces are incredibly important, they don’t always leave space for those who experience racism to feel comfortable sharing all parts of these experiences. For this reason, as part of the campaign, the SFUO invited students to two breakout groups that will take place on Tuesday, March 4th. One of these breakout groups is a response to these requests and as such is a space for students of colour to discuss the experiences they have had on this campus.
The SFUO understands that when it comes to racism, just as is the case with any form of oppression, privilege goes hand in hand with this discussion. In order to keep the conversation about ending racism open to all students and to address this other side of the coin, a second discussion group will take place in parallel to the first. This will provide a space for any student to join in on conversations about power, privilege and about how students who don’t experience racism can be allies in this work. These breakout groups will then come together a week later to share what has been discussed and build an action plan towards future steps to fight racism on our campus.
Unfortunately, the structure of these two initial discussion groups were misunderstood by some students, who claimed that such an event promoted segregation and “reverse racism”. It is first important to note that reverse racism is a myth. Racism is a form of discrimination that extends beyond individual and isolated acts and has very large historical and systemic roots and ramifications. To be clear; the SFUO understands that issues of racism, identity, skin colour and culture are incredibly complex issues. There are histories and experiences that can run deeper than what one might see at face value (i.e., skin colour). For this reason, self-identification, which must be central to these forums, must be based on each person’s experiences and history. We honour the fact that in struggles to end various forms of oppression, there must both be space for groups of different identities to come together on their own to share their stories as well as methods that engage all students on our campus community to work in solidarity against oppression.
The In My Skin campaign will be running a series of events far beyond these two breakout groups including a second, larger group discussion scheduled for the following week. The breakout groups are by no means the beginning of anti-racism work on our campus, nor are they the end. We hope that you will join us in this fight and that together, we can work towards making campus a safer place for all students. This is one step towards our larger goals of an equitable, just and safe campus for all students and we look forward to taking this step with you.
For more information:
Vice President Equity
Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)
(613) 562-5800 x4139