EDITORIAL: Third Space project highlights challenge of confronting racial discrimination

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Reddit
"Ironic" racism like this message scrawled on the Third Space art project proved that some UVic students can't deal with the issue of racism on campus. Photo by Myles Sauer, Editor-in-Chief

“Ironic” racism like this message scrawled on the Third Space art project proved that some UVic students can’t deal with the issue of racism on campus. Photo by Myles Sauer, Editor-in-Chief

If you were around campus last week, you likely saw or heard about the art project spearheaded by the Third Space: a wall, painted in stark white, with black lettering that posed the question, “How do you challenge white supremacy?” The project offered a blank slate for students to voice their thoughts in writing, and while the question could be read as pretty loaded, it succeeded in sparking discussion.

Students spoke face to face outside the SUB, on social media, and even on the wall itself. But it was the content of that discussion that drew the most attention, as anonymous trolls decided to use their voice in a way that was immature, destructive, and ultimately proving the point of the whole operation.

Conversations about race tend to make a lot of people uncomfortable, and for good reason: Canada doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to dealing with minorities, considering how often we gloss over the various atrocities in our history books. Public education hasn’t done the best job teaching young students about things like residential schools (though that’s now starting to change, albeit slowly), or the head tax, or the abysmal conditions that most people who live on reserves experience day in and day out. People aren’t exposed to the issues enough growing up, and as a result, it creates a misconception that racial discrimination just “doesn’t exist here.”

But let’s take a minute: how many of you heard about the escalating violence on campus that many Indigenous students experienced following the Native Students Union/Undergraduates of Political Science snafu of last year? How many of you knew about a UVic instructor who openly posted transphobic and Islamophobic content on a blog in 2015? Or that some instructors refuse to address transgender people by their proper names, or use their proper pronouns? Those all happened here on this campus, but unless you live those experiences of marginalization, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking those experiences don’t exist.

Contrary to what some of the wall’s detractors argued, white supremacy is not always draped in a white hood and obsessed with burning crosses. White supremacy is implicit. It’s systemic. It’s stitched into our social fabric and rendered invisible by the power structures that demand it be so. And it goes beyond individual instances of discrimination and manifests as something far more malignant.

The swastikas, the written assertions of “white power” and that “reverse racism is real,” and all the rest, are messages that support the fundamental structures of white supremacy as they operate latently in our everyday lives. Decrying the project by pointing out Canada’s diversity, or moaning about how you don’t like the way you’re being engaged in conversation, is privilege at its finest, and fails to recognize how this problem permeates our culture at every level.

Making people feel uneasy in a place where they don’t normally have to think about these things, where they’re not confronted by them day in and day out, is exactly the point of the Third Space’s project. For marginalized people on campus, this discomfort reflects their daily lived experiences. And what this project has shown above all is that when the shoe’s on the other foot, many people can’t take the heat.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Reddit

13 Comments

Avatar Anonymoose

Seriously?

If they didn’t expect those sorts of answers then clearly Thirdspace is stupid. What was written on the wall is not a sign of white supremacy or racism. It’s trolling and a sign that some people were clearly bored overnight.

Avatar Gabriel Syme

There is no evidence of white supremacy on this campus. The wall was absurd and wasteful, as is this paper. It is remarkable how early “The Martlet Staff” (whoever THAT might be) have abnegated all traces of journalistic integrity.

I think it’s time the staff of this paper was made accountable to the students it seems to feel entitled to attack in such a disgraceful fashion.

Avatar Ashe Haigh

The wall literally proves that white supremacy thrives on campus. Did you not look at some of the comments written on the wall? There were literally messages telling marginalized students that their experiences don’t matter, and others promoting violence towards these communities. The wall in itself is evidence that white supremacy thrives on campus through denial, as does your comment.

Avatar Gabriel Syme

They were mocking the people who built the wall! Why do you think messages of that kind only appeared AFTER the wall was erected?

The people who wrote those messages were all non-white, for all you know.

Avatar Gabriel Syme

White supremacy is the stance that white people are superior by dint of being born white. You’ve provided no evidence for this, you’ve simply conflated white supremacy with some vague and unsubstantiated insinuation of cultural bias because “white supremacy” gets more attention then “Bob isn’t sure what the point of a healing circle is.”

Avatar Gabriel Syme

There is a point where you can’t even call this bias. This piece is even more of an embarrassment than usual, Martlet.

Avatar Gabriel Syme

It’s an abysmally dishonest and grasping tutorial written in the name of the paper itself. I have too high a regard, regrettably, for the intelligence of this paper’s staff to think they did not know how ridiculously slanted and omitting this article was.

Avatar The Martlet

Editorial topics are decided on by staff at our editorial meetings, held weekly in the Martlet office. Editorials are written by one or more staff members and are not necessarily the opinion of all staff members.

The Martlet also has an open letter policy and will endeavour to publish letters received from the university and local community. Letters must be submitted by email, include your real name and affiliation to UVic and have ‘Letter to the editor’ in the subject line. Letters must be under 200 words and may be edited.

Avatar The Martlet

We’re just offering an outlet since you’ve been so outspoken about this issue in our comments section, is all.

Avatar Gabriel Syme

I think the Wharf Street Journal seems more promising, frankly. This paper has become something of a running joke.

Leave a Reply