Alleged racially motivated incident demonstrates reality faced by students of colour in Kingston

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Two racialized graduate students at Queen’s say they were targeted by a driver who almost ran them over when they were crossing the road at an intersection on Jan. 6. The women later told The Kingstonist the driver didn’t show any signs of remorse or guilt before driving off, and they believe he deliberately sped up to attack them.

The students filed a report with the police, who believe the incident could be a hate-motivated crime.

Fortunately, the students weren’t injured. Regardless, it’s deplorable students of colour at Queen’s are left feeling unsafe in their new hometown when hate crimes like this happen. The university community has a long history of racially motivated attacks and incidents, but it’s not just Queen’s—Kingston, too, has failed to prevent discrimination and hatred from rearing its head within the city.

Since the incident, the two students were offered support by the university. Although a positive step, the response to hate crimes shouldn’t be simply reactive—it should be proactive as well.

At a university like Queen’s, where the percentage of visible minority groups has rested steadily around 25 per cent over the last five years, it’s important to acknowledge how racialized students receive welcome differently within a predominantly white community. For non-white students, Kingston can be a hostile and intolerant place.

In response, Queen’s could better support students who feel out of place in Kingston because of its whiteness. This could look like fund transition programs specifically designed for racialized students to feel at home on Queen’s campus or to connect with community in the city.

However, this problem isn’t only the responsibility of the university. To feel accepted and at home as a Queen’s student means feeling support from Kingston as well.

Racialized students moving to Kingston deserve to feel safe, and many don’t. Implementing sweeping anti-racism efforts within the city of Kingston should be a direct priority of the local government. This can start at local community centres, like libraries, outdoor spaces, and municipal facilities which are well suited to host anti-racist education. Teaching Kingston residents about the experiences of people of colour could foster a more inclusive and safer city and help to prevent future hateful incidents.

As well, racialized folks must have easy access to resources should they experience a hate crime—including those which don’t include policing. Students who are victims of hate and discrimination should feel supported regardless of how they choose to proceed after a racially motivated incident, both by Queen’s and the City.

Incidents like the one that happened earlier this month won’t disappear overnight. But making change within the community to support survivors of hate crimes and to mitigate hate before attacks can happen is necessary.

Work must be done to make Kingston a safe, anti-racist community—because as those two Queen’s students can attest, it’s far from one now.

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