Editorial: The shit we don’t talk about

In Communities, The Blackout IssueLeave a Comment

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By Lidia Abraha

Racism manifests differently for every minority group, and it’s even more complex for folks with intersecting identities. When I first stepped on campus four years ago, I had a hopeful feeling of what university life would entail. Being from North Carolina, I was always aware of how my identity would be compromised, misconceived and challenged in every non-Black setting I entered. Despite Ryerson’s diverse student body, I have witnessed and experienced racism at every level of campus—micro-aggressions in the classrooms, teachers getting me confused with the only other Black student in the class and neglect and harsher treatment from students and faculty.

It was clear that there was an appreciation for our multicultural institution, and that there are initiatives that are meant to further equity, diversity and inclusion principles. But there was a clear disconnect between Ryerson’s efforts and the needs of Black community members.I organized this special issue because I know that my experience is not unique to this campus—Black people are just never given space to talk about it. In this issue, we’re going to get more into the shit we don’t talk about. This is a small taste of what the Black experience at Ryerson looks like. This includes, but is not limited to our legacy, anti-black racism in the classroom, being Black in faculty, mental health, athletics and commuting.

I want an assessment of the anti-Black climate on campus, so we can’t be dismissed when we talk about our experiences on campus

Ryerson loves to use diversity as a buzzword, but they’ll never talk about the time the East African students Association bulletin board was set on fire in 2008, or the time a Black student activist was sent death threats in 2009, or the time Ryerson got a Din diversity by the anti-racism taskforce in 2010. Although these events happened in the past, where can we point to the progress? Is it the establishment of the Vice President Office of Equity, Community and inclusion? Because last I heard, they fired one of their few Black employees, Carol Sutherland, when she was on medical leave. My time at Ryerson has taught me that initiatives don’t translate to progress.

Having an office for equity, diversity and inclusion is meaningless when we know a completely different story within these walls. Our experiences seem easy to erase, especially when there aren’t any public student data sets that represent our concerns. I want to know how many Black students are likely to graduate compared to white students. I want to know how Black students are represented by each faculty. I want to see the acknowledgement of the longevity of Blackness in our curriculum across the board. I want an assessment of the anti-Black climate on campus, so we can’t be dismissed when we talk about our experiences on campus.

There’s no goal here, nor any groundbreaking discoveries in this issue. Just our stories made entirely by a team of Black writers. This issue is told by us, for us. This is how we see the campus, Ryerson’s student body, administration and faculty

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