Queen’s new anti-racism initiatives are reactive, not proactive

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Queen’s committed to three anti-racism initiatives on June 10 in response to student calls to action. This response, The Journal Editorial Board feels, is only a reaction to pressure from students, rather than a proactive measure that should’ve come years earlier.

Last week, the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS) called for the University to match its donation to organizations supporting Black lives. After a week’s silence and discussions with QBAS, Queen’s released three ways it hopes to make campus a safer place for its Black students.

However, these initiatives fail to address the root of the problem: racism on campus.

It’s no secret that Queen’s has a history of racism. While the University condemned the racist costume party in 2016 and the recent coronavirus party last winter, it has failed to take tangible action in response to these events. While its new initiatives are good first steps, they’re basic needs the University should’ve already been meeting.

Queen’s initiatives focus entirely on helping Black students deal with racism. What they fail to tackle are the non-BIPOC students making campus unsafe in the first place.

As an educational institution, Queen’s has the power and responsibility to educate its primarily white student body about racism. This means having mandatory classes about anti-racism and how to be an ally to the BIPOC communities, as well as hiring a more diverse staff of professors.

Overall, the University needs to not only take responsibility for racism on campus but show that racist incidents won’t go unpunished. Queen’s cannot be afraid to make its white students uncomfortable.

Students are already taking these steps. Political studies students, for example, recently called for more BIPOC representation in their mandatory classes.

If students can be proactive, the University can too.

The Editorial Board also agreed that at The Journal, we can do better. We need to tackle issues of discrimination and racism more rigorously than we have in the past and use our platform to amplify BIPOC voices. We plan to create a sub-advisory board of BIPOC students and allies who can hold us accountable and inform our reporting of these issues.

Queen’s new initiatives show that the University is only willing to do the bare minimum to appease students’ calls to action, when what the institution needs is radical action. By failing to act proactively, the burden of change falls on BIPOC’s shoulders when it shouldn’t.

Queen’s needs change, and it needed it yesterday. The University can’t expect BIPOC students to do the work for it; it needs to be proactive if it truly wants to be an ally. That starts with Queen’s educating its white students and making a commitment to uproot the racism deeply embedded in its culture.

It’s time Queen’s acknowledges its reputation—and does something to change it.

Journal Editorial Board

The editorial discussion for this article was open to all Queen’s students. While non-members of the Editorial Board informed and guided the discussion, the final editorial was crafted based solely on the opinions of The Journal’s Editorial Board, as per our policy.

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