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We are Here, We are Needed: UBC Students of Colour Ready to Speak Out against Racist Violence Worldwide

Next Friday, November 27th, an event at UBC is taking place where students of colour and allies will gather to show solidarity for the racist violence occurring throughout university campuses worldwide. Please join us at 2PM in the Performance Theatre of the AMS Nest, to show your support for #Mizzou, #Yale, #UWC, #FeesMustFall, #StudentBlackOut, #BlackLivesMatter and many other resistance movements led by students of colour.

Bombs, dropping across the world.

Facebook offers to change your profile red, white, and blue, forgetting lives lost in Garissa University of Kenya, Burundi, Beirut, Baghdad, Yola. Forgetting countless other places. Blue, white, and red: the colours of the United States, where Black students at Missouri University are resisting racist death threats and physical attacks in spite of a negligent campus administration.

In South Africa, Black students insist that #FeesMustFall in their historically whites-only universities. Police shoot at students with stun grenades.

This year, the University of British Columbia turned 100 years old. That means a century of colonial occupation of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people’s unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories. This year, UBC’s administration wants to increase tuition fees for international students yet again. In three years, international students will have to pay 49% more than what they do now. This year, the first brown President on campus, Arvind Gupta, resigned without explanation. Another brown man, a student, was attacked on campus several months before.

I highlight only the tip of a monstrous iceberg, the iceberg that is white supremacy. As I listened to Teju Cole speak about inequality inside the Jack Poole Hall of UBC’s newly-built Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre over a week ago, I wondered about how he has been the only non-white speaker for the Lind Initiatives series so far, introduced by Phanuel Antwi, the only Black professor in the English department where I am getting a degree. Racism on campus is not just experienced by characters in the books I am studying. Racism structures our everyday, and whether some of us will wake up to see another.

Last April, the #I2amUBC photo project reminded us that racism on campus is alive and well, but that racialized students are still here, resisting.

Over a week ago, Teju Cole reminded me that lives here are not any more important than those on the other side of the world. For some, “here” means Paris, even if they have never set foot in Europe. For some, “the other side of the world” means Black, Muslim, and Indigenous people murdered each day; refugees who live in their neighbourhoods facing deportation and violence; and all the racialized women—poor and queer and trans and disabled—who traverse the classist, heterosexist, transmisogynistic, and ableist walls that white men have made us build for them. For some, those walls are worth more than the thousands of hands who have fashioned them, combined.

For me, a Han Chinese settler who came to the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people before 9/11, from Mainland China, the racism I experience propels me to ask how I can meaningfully support Black, Muslim, and Indigenous students (among others) in their struggles. As Mainland Chinese people continue to be blamed for the housing crisis in Vancouver and as the City continues to neglect the needs of Chinese seniors in Chinatown, I wonder how the model minority myth encourages those like me to approximate and appeal to white people’s realities at the expense of black and brown bodies. I wonder why I should put up with harmful stereotypes of being docile, silent, or small, when my voice and presence are needed.

As I walk around in The Nest, I am aware that so many students speak Cantonese or Mandarin. So many of us have come from Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. So many of us are “East Asians,” as comments on Cicely-Belle Blain’s article point out. Would we all join Black folks as they are being killed by police, Muslim folks as their mosques are being burned, Indigenous people as their land, women, Two-Spirit folks, and children are being stolen? Would we catch the bullets in midair, douse the match before it’s lit, or give the land back, if we could? Would we shelter refugees in our homes in Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, Kitsilano, in Richmond, in Burnaby?

Since the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, I wonder how many youth in the Chinese diaspora have been counselled not to get political, not to speak up, and not to involve ourselves in protest movements. I admit doing so is not easy, it almost never is. It’s precisely because there are so many of us on campus that we must come together to support other racialized folks. We are needed.

I hope to see you there on Friday, November 27th.

“because i am part of the problem i can also become part of the solution
although i am part of the problem i can also become part of the solution
where i am part of the problem i need to be part of the solution”

– from Rita Wong’s “Declaration of Intent” in undercurrent

Thanks to Cicely-Belle Blain for organizing the event; Blessing Falayi for organizing #I2amUBC; Maneo Mohale and Lucia Lorenzi for the constant inspiration.