Written by the Students of Colour Collective in collaboration with the Native Students Union
In the Feb. 28, 2013, issue of the Martlet, there was a letter published regarding a Students of Colour Collective (SOCC) event that occurred on Jan. 25, 2013. This letter expressed concerns over SOCC’s policy of having closed-membership events. We of SOCC and the NSU would like to shed some light on the practice of closed-membership and IPOC (Indigenous and/or people of colour)-exclusive events.
SOCC and the NSU have been closed advocacy groups since their inception. This is not born of malice for non-IPOC students; it is to protect the health and well-being of self-identified IPOC students and to provide a safer space to find solace and healing for those who experience omnipresent racism and colonial violence.
We recognize that self-identification is not limited to how a person looks, and we acknowledge that there are self-identified IPOC students who may not be visually perceived as holding an IPOC identity. Our identities may arise from our personal histories, from our families’ histories and from the histories of our people(s). Our ways of describing ourselves may be resistive, descriptive or communal and are often not limited to how we are perceived by others. It is neither SOCC’s nor the NSU’s intent to regulate self-identification, and we leave it to the discretion of individuals to decide if and when they access SOCC and NSU office spaces and/or IPOC-only events. If you identify as IPOC, participating in IPOC spaces can be liberating. We use these spaces to share, learn and organize together. We recognize that colonial violence is pervasive, and these spaces exist to resist that violence in its many functions and to continue to have conversations about moving towards safety through community and solidarity.
A common misconception of racism is that it is limited to the prejudice of one individual against a group of people based on the colour of their skin. Racism is not defined solely by prejudice, but by relationships and structures of power. It is what gives institutions the power to vilify people of colour for political benefit, and finally, systemic racism lends such incredible privilege that some around us deny that this is the actual world that we live in. Racism is the combination of prejudice and “power over,” and when this is acknowledged, the false equivalency of reverse-racism is made apparent. No person of colour can be a reverse racist as long as white people maintain power. A person of colour may have race prejudice, but individual prejudice doesn’t translate as the power to be racist.
History is also important to contextualize IPOC spaces, when taking into account the history of exclusion, marginalization and segregation perpetuated against IPOC individuals of many backgrounds, identifications and visibilities. IPOC has no set definition; rather, we see it as a process that we are participating in to engage with what it means to organize under these identities. We as collectives are actively working on creating dialogues about how we can engage with communicating and considering what these spaces can mean, and we recognize that this is ever evolving. We invite self-identified IPOCs to join our spaces to gain support and exchange ideas.