Recently, posters promoting a “White Student Union” appeared on campuses around the GTA. They are explicitly racist and colonialist in their goal, promoting the interests of what they term “Western peoples”.
CUPE 3903 firmly condemns both these posters and the ideology that motivates them. This is not the first time that posters promoting the exclusion of racialized people from campus have been put up at York, nor is it the first time that a privileged group has sought to characterize any movement towards equality as a threat. The notion that white people are somehow under threat by the diversity and plurality of our university community is xenophobic and racist.
These beliefs are not rooted in any form of fact or reality as it is people of colour who experience every day violence, marginalization and oppression at the university and in society at large. Racialized people are oppressed and marginalized in society by economic and social systems that benefit white people. This marginalization is particularly apparent in higher education, where students–especially graduate students–do not represent the diversity of society at large. Our own union reflects this reality in the grave underrepresentation of racialized people both as members and in union spaces, as people often feel unsafe or unwelcome. CUPE 3903 is fully dedicated to the creation of a more inclusive community at York University and in our local.
Building a better union and a better society means challenging the processes by which oppression and marginalization occur. Especially, it means questioning white privilege. There is no ethnicity, no race, that is better than another, and such beliefs, both subconscious and explicit such as in these posters, works to increase the privilege of the white population by making racialized people feel unsafe and unwelcome.
The York Federation of Students has released an excellent statement, and we would like to echo the demand for safer spaces and concrete responses from York University and the campus community.