AMS Social Issue Commission hosts workshop on Intervention & Awareness

Active bystander workshop met with low attendance

AMS Social Issues CommissionerMyriam-Morênikê Djossou hosted the event.
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On Mar. 18, the AMS Social Issues Commission held an active bystander workshop focused on oppression in everyday life.

The workshop discussed stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, and oppression, as well as micro-aggressions and their consequences. It provided a variety of ways for people to intervene and put a stop to uncomfortable situations that marginalized people often encounter, mainly through stepping in and speaking up.

Hosted by Myriam-Morênikê Djossou, the AMS social issues commissioner, the workshop began with a quick Kahoot game based on situational questions surrounding discrimination and racism.

With minimal attendance, Djossou indicated the importance of action, especially when people are faced with uncomfortable and discriminatory situations.

“When we actually have the ability or the safety to react and we decide not to, what really happens is that we reinforce discriminatory behaviors,” she said.

Djossou elaborated that it’s normal to be upset when group identities are targeted, but added it’s more important to understand that for some people those feelings run deeper. Derogatory statements have the capacity to make people feel alienated, isolated, or unsupported, she said.

“[People] may feel invalidated or feel that they are overreacting,” Djossou said. “By not reacting, we miss the opportunity [to acknowledge] someone’s discriminatory action is not welcome in our environment.”

One of the major contributing factors to this discriminatory action is stereotyping.

“Whether we really [know] it or not, some of our opinions and values are based on inaccurate generalizations that exist because of stereotypes regarding people from certain groups,” she said.

The workshop also targeted the difference between oppression and discrimination—distinguishing between the two based on the system of power they originate from. 

Oppression requires the participation of a certain number of people over a period time. Discrimination, on the other hand, can be much more finite and caused by a single individual. People from marginalized groups often don’t have the ability to oppress people from dominant groups.

“When prejudices become widespread, discrimination becomes widespread, which in turn creates a system of oppression,” Djossou said. “In short, stereotypes, prejudices, [and]discrimination pay within the widest kind of oppression.”

Throughout the training, an attendee posed a question on whether the environment at Queen’s is a product of systemic discrimination or oppression.

“I would say from my personal perspective, it is a mix of both. There is systemic oppression because of the way the system is built,” Djoussou said.

The room then moved to a discussion on free speech and its impact on campus.

“I do acknowledge that this has been a very contentious topic over past few years, especially on university campuses. It is important to discuss what [words are] used,” Djoussou said. “As long as you remain respectful with your opinion, it is okay. But it is also important to note that each of us, because of our identity and our living experiences, are going to be impacted differently.”

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