Campaign is tired

While the message it conveys is important, the recent “I, too, am Oxford” photo series is just another in a seemingly endless string of quickly-forgotten whiteboard campaigns.

This campaign was inspired by a similar effort called “I, too, am Harvard”. Both campaigns are photo-series which feature pictures of non-white students holding up whiteboards explaining racist “micro-aggressions” they’ve faced on campus.

“I, too, am Oxford” is a trenchant essay as it gets at the subtle racism many people face. This racism is particularly insidious at elite white-dominated educational institutions like Oxford, Harvard and even Queen’s. Notions of who belongs at these universities and what constitutes a “typical” student at these schools can be fraught with racial and cultural expectations.

Like most white board campaigns, “I, too, am Oxford” attempts to humanize an abstract societal issue. By giving those on the receiving end of casual racism an emotive face, the viewer must think about the consequences of their words and actions.

While the benefits of such a whiteboard campaign are obvious, its drawbacks are equally apparent.

Quite frankly, whiteboard campaigns are played out. It’s a familiar cycle: a Buzzfeed listicle or series of Tumblr posts showcase the campaign, a thinkpiece gets written and a couple parodies are made. Before you know it, everyone’s forgotten the whole thing even happened.

Campus activists should be lauded for trying to highlight the undercurrent of racism that still infects our daily interactions. But they need to come up with ways to continue conversations and initiate activism around social issues for longer than the Internet news cycle.

— Journal Editorial Board

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