To many Canadians, recent events in Ferguson might seem too far from home to understand.
We often like to distinguish ourselves as an inclusive “cultural mosaic” that opposes our American sibling’s “melting pot.” We paint Canada as accepting and appreciative of all races, cultures and ethnicities, as though what happened in Ferguson would never happen here.
But I beg to differ.
The current racial tensions that persist in the United States find their roots in a history of colonization, slavery and oppression.
The experience of black individuals in Ferguson is in some ways similar to that of Canada’s Aboriginal population. The economic and social hardships and inequality endured by the Aboriginal community is deeply rooted in historical, institutional neglect.
According to a 2013 RCMP investigation, there were roughly 1,200 police-reported murders and cases of missing Aboriginal women from 1980-2012. Yet there still hasn’t been a national inquiry into the murders, and roughly half have been left unsolved.
Canada takes after its older sibling — the United States — by ignoring and neglecting the systemic inequalities plaguing minority populations. The message they’re respectively sending is that black and Aboriginal lives aren’t worth as much as white ones.
While these incidents are classified as black and Aboriginal issues, they aren’t issues that should only concern black and Aboriginal individuals.
We have to learn from Ferguson. On an individual level, Canadians need to recognize that insidious systems of racial oppression exist within our own institutions.
Queen’s campus is relatively quiet in terms of public protest and political controversy. That’s not something students should be proud of.
Although the AMS has a policy of neutrality to not impose political views on the student body as a whole, we need to take individual initiative in supporting political activism.
Queen’s students may not be directly affected by the events in Ferguson and missing Aboriginal women, but maintaining a passive, bystander attitude is unacceptable. Change begins with educating ourselves — by engaging with issues, cultures and populations that wouldn’t ordinarily cross our paths.
It may be more difficult for students to educate themselves at a university that reflects a culture of whiteness. But that doesn’t excuse a lack of initiative in finding resources to learn and take a stand. This education is more than the GPA on your transcript.
The events that have unfolded in Ferguson shouldn’t serve as a cue for white guilt, but rather as an example of the need to take action against institutional oppression.
The only way for change to happen is through mass support — especially from allies who don’t suffer the same neglect.
Jacob is one of the Journal’s Assistant News Editors. He’s a second-year film and media major.
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