Tight lips sink ships, too

Last week, two incidents of racism were reported after Queen’s students turned in posters vandalized with racist messages and signed by stormfront.org, a white supremacist Internet group.

The posters were found along University Avenue and were turned in to the Queen’s Human Rights Office. One poster was an advertisement for the Human Rights Office’s “Colour of Poverty” event held Jan. 31. The second poster was a “For Rent” sign.

The University issued a press release on Monday in which Principal Karen Hitchcock denounced the behaviour as “intolerable in a civilized society.” The press release also stated the University intends to work with the city to foster a racism-free environment and to collaborate with Kingston police in any subsequent investigations.

Missing from the press release, however, was any mention of what was written on the posters.

It’s against the Human Rights Office’s policy to discuss the particulars of reported incidents. It’s possible the University felt by withholding the messages’ racist content, it was depriving the culprits of gratification. Although based on valid concerns, failing to publicize details of the vandalism risks allowing it to be ignored.

Censorship in such a context is detrimental to the student body as a whole—racism in our community needs to be exposed and discussed openly if students are to fully understand the consequences of such incidents. Many people don’t realize the inflammatory nature of racist sentiments or actions until they’re forced to deal with them first-hand.

Organizing events such as the Rally Against Racism on Jan. 16 was a step in the right direction, but any gain is lost if we can’t openly discuss another racist incident only weeks later. Incorporating issues of race and ethnicity into Queen’s core curriculum would bring the matter to the surface and force students to realize its troubling prevalence.

The inclination to keep such incidents quiet does little to stop racism from spreading. At best, these incidents give Queen’s a chance to do something tangible and act on these situations we so readily condemn.

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