Article: Shaadie Musleh – Business Manager
Political, cultural, social, and economic insensitivity is not a new phenomenon. It is certainly not limited to the U of R. However, as an institution of higher learning, it is disconcerting that we live in a micro-bubble to the larger world around us. Three examples of our collective disconnection became noteworthy this week, namely, the 5 Days for the Homeless Campaign, Nahlah Ayed’s lecture, and the U of R cheerleading team.
It was a great pleasure to listen to CBC foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed’s lecture this past week. Her talk regarding the challenges faced by foreign correspondents to access information and work with limited resources, while adhering to the professional standards of the industry was enlightening and fascinating. How she framed this issue around her latest experience in Russia and Ukraine really pulled her talk into perspective. Unfortunately, the questions from the audience portion of the lecture began. Normally, this is a straightforward exercise until one questioner from the audience asked “How was she able to be objective in her reporting in the Middle East because of her ethnic background of being born a Palestinian?” Wow! She answered the question with dignity and grace. She informed the audience that this is a question that she gets a lot. However, this is a question that is asked specifically due to her ethnicity rather than journalistic integrity, so it’s not ok. Further, she was born in Winnipeg and no one asked if that affected her ability to report on the regional issues of the other provinces such as Quebec. Why, because it is stupid, just like making her ethnicity an issue of journalistic integrity.
The 5 Days for the Homeless Campaign does raise much needed money for the Carmichael Outreach. However, it is not above criticism: such as glorifying homelessness, dismissing the issues that actually cause homelessness, and not really providing any solutions to homelessness. These are not new criticisms. What is bothersome is the willful ignorance of our elected student officials. Their accretion (no names need to be mentioned. This is not a shaming exercise.) is that if they do not hear an argument against, then it must not exist! Furthermore, it was insinuated that to be asked such a question by an inferior Carillon writer somehow insulted their sensibilities. Makes me wonder what else our representatives are not discussing.
The U of R cheerleaders do not need me to keep piling on them. They will face enough deserved criticism for their pictures. What bothers me is the university’s response to this as ‘Culturally Inappropriate.’ This white-washes the seriousness of these actions and ignores the clear linkage between colonization, poverty, and stereotypes. This is the frame of reference we are taught to believe as youngsters and still remains unchallenged at our university. To say that I am embarrassed is an understatement. I am not surprised, however.
What these three instances have in common is that it seems they are not maliciously intended to be hurtful. However, this does not absolve them of responsibility. Our culture and imperialistic roots are intertwined as it frames the narrative to make these actions of willful ignorance, racism, and marginalization normal. It is this challenge of normalization that should be the cornerstone of our education, rather than having these behaviours being the basis of our ignorance.