An open letter to the writer of the racist & homophobic note

This mindset is not welcome in the Queen’s community

Lauren Winkler wants the writer of the note to begin the process of learning and unlearning.

Last week, a racist and homophobic note was posted in Chown Hall residence. While there’s a need to address intolerance in the Queen’s community on a greater scale, I want to address the individual who wrote this note.

I hope you are only in the first few months of your first year of university, so you have the next four years at Queen’s to do lots of learning.

You should take advantage of the opportunity to take Indigenous studies and Canadian history courses while you’re here.

You should attend events held by the Queen’s Native Student Association and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives with an open and peaceful mindset.

I encourage you to attend a KAIROS Blanket Exercise with the genuine intention of learning. I repeat: I want you to do these things only when you are in a mindset where you are willing to respectfully and genuinely learn from our Indigenous community in a non-threatening manner.

Every person on this campus deserves safety. With your note, you have taken that right to safety away from Indigenous and LGBTQ+ students.

I wish all of this for you because I believe you’ll quickly understand the racism, incorrectness, and childishness of your actions aren't reflective of the views of this prestigious institution.

I encourage you to catch up with the rest of the country, which is progressing toward a more positive relationship with Indigenous peoples.

I can only imagine it was your intention to make the Indigenous community and the LGBTQ+ community feel unsafe. I don’t know any other reason for writing such cruel and unprovoked words.

I want you to know that your violent thoughts place you in the minority. You're incorrect in feeling like you’ve ever had any right to make others feel unsafe.

I‘ve been at Queen’s for seven years, and this incident marked the first time my mother has ever cautioned me to be safe when I’m on campus. I realize this is my own privilege as a white-passing Mohawk woman, but in all the years I’ve publicly adovated for Indigenous students and identified myself as an Indigenous student, I’ve never felt so unsafe on my own campus—my home.  

I don’t deserve to feel unsafe in my own home, and my Indigenous and LGBTQ2+ friends certainly don’t deserve that either.

I hope you do a lot of growing up in your time at Queen’s. I hope you use your time here to learn, unlearn, and relearn the history between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples have so many reasons to be angry with settlers, and yet many of us work constantly alongside all of you to forge a more positive relationship. I do not know how settlers at Queen’s are feeling, but I hope they’re as disappointed and disgusted by your words and actions as I am.

It took a lot of restraint and several deep breaths for me to write this open letter to you, but I did it because it’s important for you to see that Indigenous peoples are resilient, strong, and have much more respect than any of the settlers I learned about over the course of my undergraduate history degree.

I normally emphasize educating individuals to promote tolerance rather than labeling people as discriminatory, but in this case I think you deserve to be subject to both of these paths.  I want to let you know that your words are unwelcome in this community. If you ever wish to be welcomed back into the Queen’s student body, you have a lot of learning and unlearning to do.

As a facilitator of the Cultural Safety Training at Queen’s, the Indigenous Representative for the Law Students’ Society, and member of the Queen’s Indigenous Law Students’ Alliance, I encourage you to know your history and facts before you make public accusations and threats.

If you would like some resources to help educate yourself and work toward mending your relationship with Indigenous peoples, I would be happy to provide you with those resources.

Again, I encourage you to begin this learning process only once you are in a non-violent mental space, and only once you feel genuinely open to learning and unlearning.

It’s unfortunate, disgusting, and unnecessary such that cruel and immature actions had to take place before someone called you in, but now, as a leader on this campus, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.

Good luck with the rest of your time here at Queen’s. I hope you learn the meaning of community and broaden your world views.

Sken:nen (in peace).

Lauren Winkler is a third-year Law student, and a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

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