Black student associations respond to racist incident at AMS debate

ACSA, SBBA, QBAC, and QBAS comment on events

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
Several organizations responded to the racist incident which occured at the AMS Executive debate last week.

This article discusses anti-Black racism and may be distressing to some readers. The Peer Support Centre and BIPOC Talk can be accessed here. 

Several Black student associations on campus spoke to The Journal about the recent events involving the distribution of a racist image of a candidate in the now-concluded AMS executive election. The candidates’ team, ERA, dropped out of the running.

The Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS) President Teshi Bollo-Kamara, ArtSci ’23 and Vice-President Amaiya Walters, ArtSci ’24, spoke to The Journal about the incident. Walter was at the debate when the photo was air-dropped, and said this release was harmful to attendees.

“[It was] super unexpected, and being in that setting we weren’t allowed to leave,” Walters said in an interview. “You weren’t able to access support right away unless you wanted to leave and it’s kind of difficult to do so.”

Walters spoke to the fact the AMS was notified of the incident during the debate, calling their statement on the incident “vague” and “bureaucratic.” She said the AMS needs to address these forms of discrimination by calling them exactly what they are: anti-Black racism.

“They really didn’t do enough in my belief to figure out whether this was true, where validation came from, or just really look into it,” she said.

“If they really want to show they took this complaint seriously and want to get to the bottom of it, they would say there has been a racist allegation made towards one of the candidates.”

She added that, in her opinion, Black students can’t feel comfortable reaching out to the AMS for support or feel comfortable being involved with the organization after the incident.

“I wouldn’t say the AMS creates an environment where Black students want to get involved and feel seen, heard, or represented,” she said. “However, that’s not to say that can’t be changed.”

Bollo-Kamara echoed Walters’ perspective and said she thinks “it’s good this kind of thing was exposed.”

“I can imagine how stressful it must have been to receive a photo like that of someone you’re supposed to want to support or at the very least want to hear their platform—someone who’s supposed to be representing you,” she said.

She also said she was disappointed by what she called a lack of action from the University following the incident.

“I’m not all that surprised, and I feel like it’s kind of the general consensus among a lot of Black students that these things happen quite frequently at the University, and the responses are often less than satisfactory.”

Bollo-Kamara added she “feel[s]” for the other candidates who composed Team ERA.

“I think maybe it was a little late, but I am glad that they stepped forward and made a statement about how they don’t condone [the candidate’s] behavior,” she said.

The African and Caribbean Students’ Association (ACSA) told The Journal they want Team ERA, the AMS, and Queen’s to “do better.” The club released a statement on the image on Feb. 4 on Instagram and asked the AMS to remove team ERA from the ballot.

“We are upset that someone who has only recently begun to dissect their racial biases would feel emboldened to represent clubs whose core values are based in anti-racism and acceptance,” ACSA said in the statement.

“ACSA is not ignorant to the fact that many students at this school have had the privilege of ignoring racism for much of their lives.”

The organization voiced its frustration surrounding a “stark” absence of accountability and said they want the University to implement consequences in response to acts of racism.

In a statement to The Journal, ACSA said they appreciated team ERA dropping out of the election.

“We hope that instead of using leadership positions over BIPOC students to confront her racist past, [the candidate] instead works alongside us to understand how best to help us achieve our goals,” Marli Robertson, ACSA co-chair, wrote. “This is not a time to hide away and run from criticism.”

Robertson thanked those who have offered overwhelming support.

“Though it often seems overshadowed by hate, there is an abundance of love at this school, and we will do everything in our power to keep it alive.”

Smith Black Business Association (SBBA) also released a statement on the incident on Feb. 4 on Instagram, condemning acts of anti-Black racismon campus. In the statement, the club explained the historical significance of blackface and the watermelon stereotype.

According to SBBA, Blackface dates back to minstrel shows where Black people were depicted using harmful language and stereotypes. They said the watermelon stereotype emerged during emancipation when slaves farmed, sold, and consumed watermelon at large.

“It turned into a negative trope intended to make it a symbol of uncleanliness and laziness,” SBBA said. “Black people are not a monolith and are more than any stereotype created to diminish them.”

In light of Black History Month, SBBA hopes the incident doesn’t “overshadow” endeavors to lift up the Black community at Queen’s.

“Acts of anti-Black racism should not be tolerated on campus, and individuals that participate in this behaviour need to be held accountable.”

Like ACSA and SBBA, Queen’s Black Alumni Chapter (QBAC) released a statement on Instagram on Feb. 4. The club addressed alumni experiences of racism at Queen’s and called upon the AMS to uphold their “commitment” to equity.

“As Black alumni, we have endured unspeakable and overt racist incidents during our time at Queen’s,” QBAC said in the statement. “This has left many of us with traumatic scars decades after graduation, with many vowing never to return to the campus.”

QBAC acknowledged the University’s efforts to increase representation and spaces for Black students, but said this incident proves the Queen’s has “a long way to go.”


anti-Black, Elections2023, ERA, KMV, racism, TBD, violence

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