Maybe this post is coming too soon after the whole milk bag debacle, but after an interesting conversation with Sasha and Ivonne tonight, I can’t stop myself from blogging about this.
As many of you may or may not know, last week an individual at Ryerson* started an “I’m a White Minority at Ryerson” facebook group--which I am going to quite candidly tell you that I thought was hilarious. The group has since been shut down,** but I’m feeling pretty bad for the guy who created it, because he obviously meant it all in good humour. And while some might accuse him of being culturally insensitive, I would argue just the opposite—I think he was being acutely accurate in addressing a serious administrative unfairness that is happening at the university.
I remember moving to Toronto, and within the first week of classes, I heard some classmates, Magda and Kasia, talking about the events for some student group they were involved in. Eager and excited at the idea of belonging to a ‘group’, I asked if I could join. “Oh, it’s for Polish students,” they told me. “You could join, but really only Polish students are members. There’s probably another student group you could join, though,” the told me encouragingly.
But as a 7th generation white Canadian with no specific religious denomination, what cultural student group am I going to join? There really is no group set aside for those of us wanting to bond about our complete lack of a cultural or ethnic identity while we eat Kraft Dinner and maple syrup candies before we watch old Kids in the Hall episodes.
(Okay, I might get sidetracked by ranting about this, but my lack of a cultural identity has seriously been bothering me for the last 3 years. The only thing I’ve really got going on is some serious conversations with Robbie Burns and 8 years worth of Highland dancing lessons. I feel lucky, and know that white privilage is alive and well, so I'm not complaining. . . but I have to admit I was kind of jealous when I went to the East African Students' of Toronto multicultural show last Sunday and they were all bonding over their traditional dances, and at the Hindu Students' Association Diwali lunch, I enjoyed the delicious channa and roti while wishing that people didn't inherently question me when I say I like Bollywood. As a white girl from Alberta, the only musical cultural privilege I have is justifably setting Bon Jovi as my ringtone with no questions asked.)***
I recognize that an all-white Canadian student group would cause serious problems, and I’m not suggesting that one should seriously exist. I’m just saying that if it’s acceptable for a Black Students’ Group to exist, why can’t there be a White Students’ Group? (And I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a “Black Students’ at Ryerson” facebook group. I wasn’t able to figure this out, though, because I don’t have facebook. Sorry.)
One person logically argued with me that the reason white people shouldn’t have student groups is because they already have access to everything else, arguably at a more exclusive level. And while I agree that there is undeniably privilege and a favoured bias that comes with being born white, I think that this argument is just a Na-na-na argument. As in, “Na-na-na-na-na-naaa! We have a student group and you don’t!”
So while those people have their thumbs in their ears, waving their fingers with their tongues stuck out giving raspberries, I’m thinking that it either has to be all or nothing. Either there should be the possibility of a student group regardless of your race, origin, ethnicity and interests, or else there should be none.
I understood the obvious problems the facebook group presented, and although I probably find it funny partially because I am a white student, I do believe that as an international community Ryerson needs to find the fine line between developping a sense of humour and being politically correct.
Next year I’m starting up a “Western Canadian Students at Ryerson” student group. We can drink Kokanee, listen to country music together, and bond about the fact that because it takes the university forever to post our exam schedules, our flights home are that much more expensive. I’ll even let the British Columbians join, because I really like them.
I'm kind of torn how I feel about all of this. I can see and understand both sides of the argument. Now I'm just wondering what everyone else thinks? The forum is open.
**Sarah, I don't think you're credited for writing this story on the eyeopener site. So if anyone reads it, I think Sarah Boesveld wrote it. She's fabulous as well.
***Right now my ringtone is Biggie Smalls, which definitely has resulted in more than one raised eyebrow.