26.5.15

SEPARATE, AND AGAIN UNEQUAL.

Ryerson journalism student Aeman Ansari attempts a case for voluntary self-segregation.  Seriously.  "Ethnic Minorities Deserve Safe Spaces Without White People."
It's not just important, but it's essential, for marginalized groups to have safe spaces on campus to engage with people who understand what they go through. Though this group is funded by Ryerson's student union, it works to serve a particular group and a particular purpose. Many students at Ryerson have encountered racism in their life that is impossible to forget and many are exposed to discrimination on a daily basis. This group and these sort of events allow people of colour to lay bare their experiences and to collectively combat this societal ailment. These spaces are rare places in the world not controlled by individuals who have power, who have privilege.

These spaces, which are forums where minority groups are protected from mainstream stereotypes and marginalization, are crucial to resistance of oppression and we, as a school and as a society, need to respect them.
The separate waiting rooms at rail stations and separate seating sections in theaters were created by the people who have the power, which makes all the difference.
Segregation was imposed on people of colour by people of privilege, not the other way around. The very fact that individuals organizing to help each other get through social barriers and injustices are being attacked and questioned for their peaceful assembly is proof that they were right to exclude those students.
One of these days, a social scientist of great courage will look at the emergence of self-segregation, or of the more contested "othering" as a logical outgrowth of allocating resources and status on the basis of kinship ties.  Ms Ansari has stuff in her privilege knapsack to draw on in part because her world is one in which there are multiple ways of allocating resources and status, and evolutionary stable strategies for humans to interact are emergent.
Racialized people experience systemic discrimination on a daily basis, on many levels, and in ways that white people may never encounter. The whole point of these safe spaces is to remove that power dynamic. That's partly what makes them spaces for healing.

The presence of any kind of privilege puts unnecessary pressure on the people of colour to defend any anger or frustrations they have, to fear the outcome of sharing their stories. The attendees are trying to move forward by supporting each other and they should not have to defend themselves, they should not fear the consequences of raising their voices.

Instead of focusing on why those students were asked to leave, we should be thinking about the history of oppression that makes these kinds of groups and these kinds of places so very important. We should be focusing on how to be aware and respectful of the rights of both the press and marginalized groups. We have to find a way to coexist peacefully.

The West has a history of oppressing people of colour: from Africans who were enslaved and brought to the New World, to native people whose land was stolen by Europeans. This kind of oppression is still witnessed today, in the way the black community is treated in the United States, in the state of African nations trying to recover from the collapse of the previous colonial rule, and in the continuing struggles of indigenous peoples.
Hint: what Ms Ansari interprets as oppression might be a collision of emergent social systems following different evolutionary stable strategies.  But when practitioners of one strategy interact with practitioners of another, the strategy that confers advantages on adopters might look like oppression to defenders of the losing strategy.  Thus, structural, but not a consequence of animus on the part of its practitioners.

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