More defaced posters found

People should be ‘mindful of their personal safety,’ Campus Security Director says

Sociology and women’s studies professor Cynthia Levine-Rasky says the University needs to reconsider the way it recruits students.
Sociology and women’s studies professor Cynthia Levine-Rasky says the University needs to reconsider the way it recruits students.
Photo: 
This defaced poster was found on a pole on the corner of Brock Street and University Ave.
This defaced poster was found on a pole on the corner of Brock Street and University Ave.
Credit: 
Supplied

More posters defaced with racist phrases were turned in to Campus Security last week.

Two posters were found two weeks ago near campus and contained racist slogans, signed by stormfront.org, an online white supremacist group.

After the second round of posters was discovered, Campus Security sent out an e-mail to all faculty, staff and students asking them to watch out for further racist activity and report suspicious-looking people.

David Patterson, Campus Security director, said the e-mail wasn’t prompted by threats or direct attacks written on the posters.

“We’re just wanting people to be mindful of their personal safety,” he said. “There were no threats uttered at any individual or group.”

Campus Security gave the posters to the Kingston Police to investigate.

Detective Jeff Dempster, who’s in charge of the investigation, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Ethan Holtzer, ArtSci ’10, found one of the first posters, which was a Colour of Poverty event advertisement defaced with racist slogans, one of which had “Help Africa save the white race the only one that gives a fuck” scrawled in pencil on one side.

He found it on a pole at the corner of Brock Street and University Avenue.

“I was a bit suspicious because I was just walking and I saw something written on this poster so I stopped and read it and realized it was a hate crime.” He said even outside the context of the Colour of Poverty poster, it’s evident what the group was trying to accomplish.

“From what was written, it was definitely pushing for recruitment,” he said.

Holtzer said the phrases talked about what white supremacist groups advocate for.

He said that, after he read the poster, he tore it down.

“After I tore it down I realized the first thing I should have done was take a picture of it,” he said.

Holtzer then went home to get his camera, took the poster back to the pole and took a picture of it. After that, he reported it to the Human Rights Office.

Holtzer said he has also encountered racist comments in Stauffer Library bathroom stalls. He couldn’t remember exactly what was written, but said it was in reference to black-focused schools in Toronto.

When he went back to take a picture of the comments, he found caretakers removing them.

“When they were taking it down I asked them, ‘Have you reported this to the Human Rights Office?’ and they said, ‘We keep this within Stauffer Library because it happens too often.’”

Sociology and women’s studies professor Cynthia Levine-Rasky advised Holtzer to report the poster to the Human Rights Office.

“What white supremacist groups want is to keep people silent, intimidated and in their place,” she said. “They say, ‘We’re not racist as long as you shut up.’” Levine-Rasky said some groups at Queen’s have a code of silence around those who perpetrate racist acts. She said this is evidenced by the University’s inability to discover the identities of four male students who shouted racial slurs at a faculty member and forced her off the sidewalk on Nov. 14.

“I think they’re going to protect each other. … There’s some kind of perverse camaraderie.”

Levine-Rasky said a lot of racism on campus takes on subtle forms that are hard to identify and easy to deny.

It’s good more people are reporting incidents, she said, because this makes racist groups scared and strengthens anti-racist initiatives.

Levine-Rasky said she’s not surprised more explicit incidents are taking place on campus, because the University has been more actively engaged in fighting racism with events such as the faculty-led rally against racism in January.

“This is a place where not only do we talk about racism and anti-racism, we fight it,” she said. “It moves into a public sphere; therefore, it’s going to elicit responses from racist groups. … In some ways, it means that anti-racist struggles are effective. We’re disturbing someone.”

It’s not a surprise universities have to deal with these issues, because racism happens everywhere, she said.

“Maybe in university we have this idea that people ought to know better,” she said. “[Racism] conflicts very much with this fundamental nature of higher education.”

Levine-Rasky said she doesn’t think Queen’s is more racist than other campuses.

“People say that Queen’s and York [University] are different in demographics, yet things like this happen on both campuses,” she said.

Anti-black graffiti was posted on the York University Black Students’ Alliance’s office door Jan. 22.

She said the University should recruit from more diverse groups.

Once students arrive, they need a support system—such as financial aid, on-campus culture-based associations and a mandatory course on racism and diversity issues—to ease their transition and help them feel they belong, she said.

“We have enough reports, we have enough knowledge , we know that, yes, a significant number of racialized students are met with hostility,” she said. “If it happens to a single person, it’s a problem. … It happens to many people here.”

Aliya Kassam, ArtSci ’09, who identifies as African and Indian, said many of her friends have experienced racism on campus.

“One of my friends who went here in the early ’90s was walking down the street and was called the n-word by someone in a car.”

She said she has an easier time fitting in because she was born and raised in Canada. The recent racist acts have made her consider her actions more carefully, however.

“I think about using Walkhome at night when I’m at Stauffer, and that’s something that I’ve never done before,” she said.

Kassam visited the Stormfront website after hearing about the defaced posters.

“There’s a level of idiocy I expected to encounter, but I found the addresses of several mosques on there,” she said. “There was nothing threatening [towards them] but … it’s actually really frightening.”

She said she wouldn’t be surprised if Stormfront had members on campus.

“If a faculty member can be pushed down in the middle of daylight on campus, clearly there’s some sentiment there towards racism.”

Kassam said the University shouldn’t only be focused on addressing the “culture of whiteness” on campus. She said there’s a culture of conformity as well.

While this may sometimes be unintentional, she said it excludes students who aren’t familiar with “white” culture.

Kassam said the University is right in trying to recruit students from diverse backgrounds. However, she said people’s mindsets have to be changed as well, and that takes a lot longer.

“Numbers are all well and good but they don’t solve all the problems.”

—With files from Erin Flegg

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