McMaster announces commitment to hiring 12 Black faculty members

In October, McMaster University completed an external review of Black student-athletes and their experiences with racism. The review was first initiated in July, prompted in part by tweets by former McMaster football star Fabion Foote who now plays for the Toronto Argonauts.

In a series of tweets, Foote shared his experiences of systemic racism within the McMaster Athletics & Recreation Department.

My DL coach at Mac said I had to sell weed to afford my tuition lol. Keep in mind I never smoked in my life. My friend was in a group chat were a white athlete used the N word. My teammate reported it to the coaches and they some how managed to blame us for it.

— Fabion (@FabionFoote) June 28, 2020

The review investigated the experiences of various students from as early as 2010 and included various interviews with both former and current Black athletes, Black staff and coaches and non-Black staff and coaches.

Completion of the review showed that a culture of systemic anti-Black racism is present at the school and has harmed a number of current and former athletes. 

Completion of the review showed that a culture of systemic anti-Black racism is present at the school and has harmed a number of current and former athletes.

“[I]t is clear that there is a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within McMaster Athletics as a result of individual and group actions and inactions from staff, coaches and department administrators. This culture is evident in explicit and implicit examples of anti-Black racism. It is also evident in a widespread lack of awareness, education, understanding, empathy and systemic perspective on issues of race and inclusivity,” the report said. 

“They probably think they’re working from neutral where they have to do something and fix it, as opposed to stopping doing things that they are already doing.”

McMaster President David Farrar shared a letter of apology to students and acknowledged that more action needs to be done. 

“On behalf of the University, I apologize for the anti-Black racism you experienced. I am deeply sorry that effective action was not taken to prevent this; there are no excuses for the behaviour you endured. I assure you that we are listening and that action is already being taken to implement the report’s recommendations and to begin the work with the Department and the broader university community to help us eliminate systemic racism,” the letter wrote. 

However, for Elvin Girineza, a fourth-year chemistry student, noted how several flaws of the review and the university’s response were apparent to him as a Black student.

I think it’s interesting to say the least, that they reviewed only athletes as part of the survey."

I think it’s interesting to say the least, that they reviewed only athletes as part of the survey. Also just that it was more asking for experiences rather than something more proactive, more doing something to address it. [It was more] reactive and having to have their Black students remind them of what exactly is going on or has been already going on in the past,” Girineza said. 

On Nov. 23, McMaster announced that the school will be committing to hiring 12 Black faculty members. The announcement stated that this approach aims to ensure the school’s commitment to inclusivity is supported by Black scholarship excellence. 

The release of the initiative received support from many across social media, with people feeling pleased that the university is addressing the issue and taking action. 

An important first step. Let’s keep imagining better futures ✊🏾 https://t.co/O8RNOFK6CB

— Stacy Creech de Castro (@Stacy_AnnC) November 25, 2020

Aside from showing support, some have also suggested the next steps the school can take to further foster inclusivity, such as considering similar initiatives for Indigenous scholars.

Excellent first steps towards meaningful change in #academia. I hope to see a similar hiring initiative focused on #Indigenous #scholars@McMasterU @EIOMcMaster https://t.co/1pvKtlAUmV

— LeaGrie, PhD (@LeaGrie) November 24, 2020

Others have also questioned whether this initiative is enough and how it can truly ensure that Black voices are being expressed in academia.

Dr. Alvin Thomas, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, responded to the announcement on Twitter.

“Along with the hiring, what positions, policies, procedures, processes and changes are being enacted to make sure that these new faculty have every opportunity and support towards success rather than becoming possibly sacrificial lambs as has happened with other academic spaces?”

“Along with the hiring, what positions, policies, procedures, processes and changes are being enacted to make sure that these new faculty have every opportunity and support towards success rather than becoming possibly sacrificial lambs as has happened with other academic spaces?” Thomas tweeted.

Along with the hiring, what positions, policies, procedures, processes and changes are being enacted to make sure that these new faculty have every opportunity and support towards success rather than becoming possibly sacrifical lambs as has happened with other academic spaces?

— Dr. Alvin Thomas, PhD. (@Dr_AT758) November 28, 2020

Girineza expressed that although hiring Black faculty is a step in the right direction, he believed a lot more work still needs to be done.

“They’re deciding how much influence and power [Black academics] get and then those new faculty will be restricted to their rules."

“They’re deciding how much influence and power [Black academics] get and then those new faculty will be restricted to their rules. . .[McMaster is] only willing to budge however much they’re willing to budge. They’re not willing to fully listen and maybe take on a more humble role and, you know, take a step back and not be the one in charge of the final decisions when it comes to how institutions deal with its own problems,” said Girineza.

"They’re not willing to fully listen and maybe take on a more humble role and, you know, take a step back and not be the one in charge of the final decisions when it comes to how institutions deal with its own problems,” said Girineza. 

Girineza is no stranger to racism as a part of his everyday reality. When he had to choose where to attend university, the culture and severity of racism at each university played a part in his decision.

“For people who haven’t experienced racism it’s a theory to them more and there has to be more work put on looking at the extent of it. Does it really exist? While to the people who experienced the consequences, it’s just a reality,” Girineza expressed.

“For people who haven’t experienced racism it’s a theory to them more and there has to be more work put on looking at the extent of it. Does it really exist? While to the people who experienced the consequences, it’s just a reality,” Girineza expressed. 

Girineza added that if McMaster really wants to properly address anti-Black racism, they have to be willing to dive deeper into the issue and apply their actions systemically.

“As opposed to trying to put a bandaid on cancer,” Girineza said. 

“As opposed to trying to put a bandaid on cancer.” 

Girineza believes the problem is being handled by people who may not realize that they may also be contributing to the problem.

“They probably think they’re working from neutral where they have to do something and fix it, as opposed to stopping doing things that they are already doing,” said Girineza.

He said that if the university wants to foster a place of community and safety, they must do more than just the basic standard.

“I can’t applaud the institution for doing the bare minimum,” Girineza said.

“I can’t applaud the institution for doing the bare minimum,” Girineza said.

McMaster has taken some steps to tackle anti-Black racism, but we still have a long way to go

By: Payton Shank, Contributor

CW: anti-Black racism

There seems to be an acquiescence around the concept of accountability. That being said, this infers that there is still, despite hesitance, the act of holding one accountable. However, it wasn’t always this way; for the longest time, no one even took the steps to hold someone accountable. 

I have reached a point where I no longer accept people walking over me. I’m exhausted of people in a position of power due to their ethnicity and job title having the upper hand and getting out of instances scot-free.

Moreover, I despise the very act of sweeping things under the rug. If you follow me on social media, you’d have seen me calling out McMaster University for doing this time and time again. At this point in my life, I strive to hold those in power accountable for their wrongdoings. I insist on ensuring that they are backing their seemingly empty promises to “do better.” 

I know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. There is a collective exhaustion amongst the community of Black students at McMaster. One particular demographic is the Black student-athletes. I have been a part of this demographic for three years now, and it has yet to be easy.

There is a collective exhaustion amongst the community of Black students at McMaster. One particular demographic is the Black student-athletes. I have been a part of this demographic for three years now, and it has yet to be easy.

Recently, the McMaster Black Student-Athlete Experience Systemic Review was released. It was plastered . . . everywhere. News sources covered it, there was social media outcry from students and moreover, the re-traumatization of the students that were reviewed came to light. 

However, if it accomplished one thing, it was accountability. There it was, in print — the immoral treatment of Black student-athletes on behalf of McMaster’s own faculty. Something that had been scoffed at, ignored and, again, swept under the rug, for years. All 62 pages of it. 

IT IS NOT JUST BLACK STUDENT ATHLETES THAT EXPERIENCE ANTI BLACK RACISM AT MCMASTER! Black students are experiencing anti black racism in the classroom, in leadership positions, in the lab, and on campus! https://t.co/4j1QFCofT3

— Kobina Baiden (@kobesbaiden) October 27, 2020

I feel like this report makes it seem like only McMaster Athletics is anti-Black. Let’s be real, the entire institution is complicit. The evidence here (& not included here) points to how Mac’s admin sustains such racist structures and employees that harm Black student athletes https://t.co/LwJ8lRKgps

— Theresa N. Kenney (@ToPoliticise) October 27, 2020

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty. In fact, I almost can’t. It isn’t an easy read, to say the least. It’s horrible, heartbreaking and downright infuriating. I had to break up my reading into small pieces to be able to digest it properly and I still don’t think I have.

Regardless, it needs to be read. We can’t continue to act as though everything is smooth-sailing in the well-oiled machine that is McMaster. Perhaps it is for the white students and faculty, but not for the other massive population of students and staff that are screaming out for help. 

I have a lot of mixed emotions about the review. Yes, I’m relieved that they finally took the steps needed to get the ball rolling. I’m excited to finally get to work on what needs to be done and this review was truly the match we needed to light the flame. There are certain systemic steps being taken and finally acknowledged, which will open the door for a number of positive changes.

They are, however, being done so very slowly and with caution; this is unchartered territory for Mac. However, I’m growing increasingly frustrated, not only with the immediate aftermath but with the contents of the review. How could they let this happen? How has it taken so long for someone to finally put their foot down? Moreover, where the heck do we go from here? 

I’ve been in close contact with various members of administration across numerous departments and the discrepancy between certain demographics of staff has been interesting to encounter. Some are equally, if not more infuriated as I am, demanding change yesterday. Some are still extremely hesitant, to say the least, about what the next steps are.

As we’ve seen on a multitude of occasions, “doing better” is easier said than done. This isn’t something that we have to put behind us and hope that everything clears up the next day; this is something that we have to carry with us for the rest of our lives — both in terms of those affected and in terms of modelling the future of McMaster.  

As frustrating as this process is, I am thankful for the resilience of those that have not only stepped up to take action but that have endured the very instances that have now been brought to light and will continue to shed light on others to come. I have faith that with unity, a rich lens of intersectionality and the undying desire amongst those involved to make positive change, that we will see brighter days. 

As frustrating as this process is, I am thankful for the resilience of those that have not only stepped up to take action but that have endured the very instances that have now been brought to light and will continue to shed light on others to come.

In order to rebuild, we must first break down. We are in the rebuilding process. In the meantime, keep fighting. Keep holding those in power accountable. Remain resilient and know that I am fighting for you. I will continue to do whatever I possibly can to hold those in power accountable and fight for the fundamental rights of BIPOC students in the McMaster community.

The Black student-athlete systemic review barely scratches the surface of issues at McMaster

By: Shae-Ashleigh Owen, Contributor

CW: anti-Black racism

On June 25, 2020, McMaster University President David Farrar published a letter promising to address systemic institutional racism and any obstacles to equity and inclusion at Mac. Alongside these promises, Farrar mentioned that the university's recently released Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and 2019-2020 Action Plan will challenge anti-Black racism and support Black students and students of colour at McMaster. The letter also stated that they will finally address the underrepresentation of Black faculty members at the university. 

Among their attempts to address anti-Black racism, McMaster announced a systemic review of the Black student-athlete experience, headed by Ivan Joseph. The university invited both past and present Black student-athletes to share their experiences in the athletics department. 

This review was officially launched July 27 when Fabian Foote, a McMaster football alumnus and Toronto Argonauts defensive lineman, tweeted about facing systemic racism during his time at Mac.

“We still have work to do” LOL. Y’all never started shit to begin with. Start by firing Mark Alfano. How about that? I’ve experienced a lot of systemic racism during my time at McMaster. Myself and other black student athletes brought it up to Mark & Glen and they brushed us off. https://t.co/W2F37z8sCL

— Fabion (@FabionFoote) June 28, 2020

The review, which was completed on Oct. 27, found that there was a history of systemic anti-Black racism in the Department of Athletics and Recreation. As a Black student, hearing about Black students’ experiences with racism was saddening, disappointing and traumatic. However, the results of the review did not surprise me. 

The review of the Black student-athlete experience in McMaster Athletics & Recreation is complete. Evidence collected during the review, which was conducted by @DrIvanJoseph of Wilfrid Laurier University, reveals a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within the department. 1/8

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) October 27, 2020

Experiences of those who participated in the review included: having a “jailbreak-themed” party where white students dressed up as criminals and wore cornrows in their hair; mentions of racial slurs used by alumni, fellow teammates and a coach; cancelling Black History Month celebrations; degrading comments based on race; there was even an accusation that a Black student-athlete was selling drugs.

In response to this, Farrar launched an Action Plan which aims to increase representation, implement advocacy roles and targeted supports and scholarships. On Oct. 29, the Department of Athletics and Recreation announced that 10 new athletic financial aid awards will be established for Black student-athletes each year. 

 

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A post shared by McMaster Marauders (@mcmastersports)

I want to highlight the fact that Black students are singled out based on race regardless of scholarships. According to a census conducted in February 2020, 60 per cent of Black youth expect to gain at least a bachelor’s degree in comparison to 79 per cent of other youths. The census concludes that this gap is likely due to discrimination.

Experiencing systemic racism like this is not exclusive to Black student-athletes. This includes the McMaster Students Union and academia as a whole, as these areas of student life are not exempt from anti-Black behaviours and actions. Statistics, such as the census, show that we need more scholarships for Black students at McMaster, as Black youth are statistically less likely to gain a bachelor’s degree compared to the general population. By providing scholarship opportunities, Black students will have at least one less barrier to receiving a postsecondary education.

As a Black student, hearing about Black students’ experiences with racism was saddening, disappointing and traumatic. However, the results of the review did not surprise me.

Like many other Black students, I have faced anti-Black racism during my time at Mac. My own experiences include people shuffling their bags away from me because they seem to be afraid of stealing — no, I do not want your bag nor what’s in it, thank you. I have even heard, “Oh, you speak great English,” even though English is my first language.

In class, I feel like I have to work 10 times as hard as the non-Black students just to get the same amount of respect and acknowledgement. I often get labelled as the “angry Black woman” due to my dominant personality, which I can assume my non-Black classmates do not have to worry about. I’ve heard fellow Black students talk about the subtle racism they had to face in their classes, both by classmates and even professors.

I even had to face systemic racism from the MSU when the Pride Community Centre was closed down midway through the winter 2020 semester, right after their 2SLGBTQA+ BIPOC-focused campaign which mainly highlighted Black and Indigenous 2SLGBTQA+ folks. This decision made by the 2019-2020 executive board hurt members of the BIPOC community at McMaster. As the only Black volunteer of the PCC at that time, this deeply hurt me too. 

Statistics, such as the census, show that we need more scholarships for Black students at McMaster, as Black youth are statistically less likely to gain a bachelor’s degree compared to the general population.

I applaud the school community for recognizing the systemic issues that Black students face. This has resulted in clubs including the ratification of the Black Student Association and other Black-focused clubs. However, if Mac truly wants to help the Black student community, their actions need to be taken further. 

Reviews of racism and oppression need to be extended towards more areas of student life, including security, club life and especially education because although we pay the same tuition as everyone else, we face more barriers in getting our degree. I would even suggest that reviews need to be extended to other minority groups as well. This is a good and important start; however, there is so much more work to be done.

McMaster University completes its review of systemic racism in the Athletics Department. 

This past July, McMaster University announced they would be conducting an external review of Black athletes' experiences following accusations of systemic anti-Black racism in the Athletics Department brought forward by several Mac alumni. 

The review predominantly looked at the individual experiences of Black student-athletes, institutional gaps limiting their student experiences and suggesting improvements to address these gaps while also mitigating any discriminatory issues on an intersectional spectrum.

The review was led by Ivan Joseph, vice-president of student affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University and former athletics director at Ryerson University. A task force composed of five members — one faculty, two staff and two students — assisted Joseph with regards to the interviews and producing observations and recommendations based on the data. 

The data would consist of interviews with current and former Black student-athletes, non-Black student-athletes, Black coaches/staff and non-Black coaches/staff. Upon successful completion of the interviews, the final report of the review was sent to Sean van Koughnett, associate vice-president and dean of students at McMaster University. 

On Oct. 27, McMaster announced that the review was completed by Joseph, with the assistance of the task force.

“I view this process as an exercise in understanding. Together, our job is to use this as an opportunity for learning, for expanding the way we think and for seeing more clearly, more deeply, more broadly,” stated Joseph to McMaster Daily News.

“I view this process as an exercise in understanding. Together, our job is to use this as an opportunity for learning, for expanding the way we think and for seeing more clearly, more deeply, more broadly,” stated Joseph to McMaster Daily News.

The review of the Black student-athlete experience in McMaster Athletics & Recreation is complete. Evidence collected during the review, which was conducted by @DrIvanJoseph of Wilfrid Laurier University, reveals a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within the department. 1/8

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) October 27, 2020

The report outlined various experiences faced by these athletes, the process of the review, the persistent culture of anti-Black bias in the department and the lack of accountability by authority, by both athletics staff and university faculty/staff. 

While discussing the impact on the student-athletes, Joseph stated in the review, “[t]hey believe that ‘nothing was done’ or it was ‘swept under the rug’ to ‘avoid drawing attention to it.’” 

“They believe that ‘nothing was done’ or it was ‘swept under the rug’ to ‘avoid drawing attention to it,’” stated Joseph in the review.

During an interview, an anonymous staff member from the department told Joseph and the task force, “[d]iversity training within the Department is non-existent. We don’t spend any time on it.” Per the recommendations of the task force, implementing an anti-racism policy statement with specific attention to anti-Black racism will help “create a culture of accountability” within the department.

“Diversity training within the Department is non-existent. We don’t spend any time on it,” said an anonymous staff member.

The review concluded that this report is made public with its recommendations. Ideally, such news would further entice the university to conduct more reviews and other universities’ athletics department to follow likewise.

“This issue is not something unique to McMaster. Our opportunity with this action plan is to be a leader in this area,” said van Koughnett. 

“This issue is not something unique to McMaster. Our opportunity with this action plan is to be a leader in this area,” said van Koughnett. 

The main recommendations include increased Black-identifying representation among coaches, counsellors, leaders; produce a safe, encouraging environment for accountability; establish a scholarship program for Black student-athletes, create a new advocacy role to allow for a third-party group to act on behalf of such athletes; and implement a consistent support and training program in partnership with the values of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Upon receiving the report, van Koughnett worked alongside Arig al Shaibah, associate vice-president of the Equity and Inclusion Office at McMaster, to help produce a five-point action plan, based on the aforementioned recommendations stated in the review. This plan would be implemented by a newly hired role, Senior Advisor of Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism, where they will be working closely with the Athletics Department, the office of Student Affairs and EIO.

These include hiring a senior advisor of equity, inclusion and anti-racism, who will be responsible for collaborating with key contacts within McMaster’s Black community, including a new Black Student-Athletes Council. 5/8

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) October 27, 2020

“We are establishing a couple staff positions: a Black student services advisor which will handle a variety of issues, such as academics and careers. They will also refer to them with other resources and help advocate for them. Another new role is a Senior Advisor in the EIO, who will be engaged with Black student populations and student populations in general and have the authority to reach out to higher senior figures in the university,” said van Koughnett. 

“We are establishing a couple staff positions: a Black student services advisor which will handle a variety of issues, such as academics and careers. They will also refer to them with other resources and help advocate for them. Another new role is a Senior Advisor in the EIO, who will be engaged with Black student populations and student populations in general and have the authority to reach out to higher senior figures in the university,” said van Koughnett. 

With regards to increased representation, hiring members will now include an Employment Equity Facilitator and other racialized community members; paid internships in the department will also be emphasized for up to three recent Black graduates. A Black Student-Athlete Council will now be formed, alongside the formation of a Black student services and 10 new Athletics Financial Aid awards for Black-student athletes.

We know we have work to do, and this is where we’ll start

Here are some points from the action plan following the external review of the black student-athlete experience. pic.twitter.com/2VNfHc4MCo

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) October 29, 2020

Black student-athletes will also have the opportunity to receive support from Black faculty members and a non-profit organization, Onyx, to provide career development opportunities for Black students. 

Lastly, policies such as the Code of Student Rights will be updated to reflect these experiences and address it immediately. Van Koughnett is also working with al Shaibah to create comprehensive education training by fall 2021 for athletics and recreation coaches, staff and student-athletes to give them the capabilities and understanding to discuss anti-Black racism. 

As the news of the review and action plan came out, Kwasi Adu-Poku, who interviewed with us earlier this year, shared his thoughts on the review. Adu-Poku is currently a member of the McMaster men’s basketball team.

“Just looking through the review and I participated in it, it was a lot to go through and I’m just talking about reading it. But not even the length, but processing a lot of these experiences that not just I experienced. I just had to sit back and think of all the things that have been going on for a while. But with regards to the action plan, it's a really good step to create a better future, but more things need to be done. It's not a one-step process. It's a good thing student-athletes to have their voices heard but I know even just regular students would love to have their voices heard,” said Adu-Poku.

“Just looking through the review and I participated in it, it was a lot to go through and I’m just talking about reading it. But not even the length, but processing a lot of these experiences that not just I experienced. I just had to sit back and think of all the things that have been going on for a while. But with regards to the action plan, it's a really good step to create a better future, but more things need to be done. It's not a one-step process. It's a good thing student-athletes to have their voices heard but I know even just regular students would love to have their voices heard,” said Adu-Poku.

Adu-Poku explained that with this action plan, he hopes that the needs of Black students are accounted for outside of the athletics population. He believes that with the creation of the Black Student-Athlete Council, it will be something that carries a greater impact in the future. 

pic.twitter.com/Jkq1cSiTXU

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) October 29, 2020

“I hope its function is something more internalized than tokenized,” said Adu-Poku.

“I hope its function is something more internalized than tokenized,” said Adu-Poku.

After speaking with fellow Black-student athletes, Adu-Poku explained a shared sense of sadness resonated between them.

“I don’t even know the word to put on it. In a sense, it’s a form of grief. At the end of the day, it was overwhelming. As much as we have been accustomed to these experiences, but seeing it on paper, it just brought so much more weight to it. Despite action being taken, we need to make sure this is not a short term thing and make sure our kids are not dealing with this when they enroll in university. We want to make sure it’s a better world for them,” said Adu-Poku.

“I don’t even know the word to put on it. In a sense, it’s a form of grief. At the end of the day, it was overwhelming. As much as we have been accustomed to these experiences, but seeing it on paper, it just brought so much more weight to it. Despite action being taken, we need to make sure this is not a short term thing and make sure our kids are not dealing with this when they enroll in university. We want to make sure it’s a better world for them,” said Adu-Poku.

During Adu-Poku’s tenure as a Welcome Week representative for 2020, he was part of a Black student panel for incoming first years, the first of his entire undergraduate journey of five years. The panel shared their experiences with the students but also provided them with the comfort, support and resources they need. Adu-Poku also explained that relationships with various members of the Black community at McMaster have been fostered in virtual check-in spaces. 

There have also been two meetings headed by van Koughnett and al Shaibah to allow more Black students to express their opinions of the review. 

“We have an ongoing conversation with the African Caribbean faculty associate and their focus is on the students. They are interested in supporting them through creating a mentorship program . . . We are having sessions for Black student-athletes. It doesn't replace face to face, but we are doing best virtually,” said van Koughnett.

“We have an ongoing conversation with the African Caribbean faculty associate and their focus is on the students. They are interested in supporting them through creating a mentorship program . . . We are having sessions for Black student-athletes. It doesn't replace face to face, but we are doing best virtually,” said van Koughnett.

With regard to accountability, there still may be fear by students from reaching out to a formal complaint process. 

“Even when I reflect on certain experiences that I disclosed, I wouldn’t have had that window if it wasn't for this review. At the end of the day, a lot of these reporting processes are uncomfortable because you're confronting an issue, but fear that you might be outed stepping forward with this. Just ways that ensure confidentiality and security as students take this uncomfortable step,” said Adu-Poku.

Ultimately, while the action plan is comprehensive and has detailed tangible steps to address systemic racism in the department, this is still an ongoing process in establishing an inclusive environment.

After racist tweets by a former Marauder were brought to light, former Mac athletes began to share their stories and the university’s lack of response.

CW: anti-Black racism, police brutality

Since the widespread protests in the United States and globally following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, many professional athletes have taken it upon themselves to further educate others and raise awareness about the acts of racial injustice plaguing their communities, especially those consisting of police brutality; however, this is not new to many athletes this year.

“We found something we’re fighting for as the NBA, as a collective unit…and I use these shoes as a symbol to keep fighting all around the world.”

- Jamal Murray after Denver's Game 6 win. pic.twitter.com/rkwPn9QuHX

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) August 31, 2020

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick began the movement of kneeling during the national anthem, where he was met with support and anguish. Over the years, Kaepernick became a leading civil rights activist despite being blackballed by team owners for his outspoken views. 

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said in a post-game interview during a 2016-2017 preseason game.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Kaepernick said in a post-game interview during a 2016-2017 preseason game.

Kaepernick’s statement comes two years after many NBA players made a statement in their games where they wore t-shirts saying, “I Can’t Breathe” following the death of Eric Garner, who repeatedly said those words while being put in a chokehold by police officers. A reminder that those three words were also uttered by Floyd four years later. Likewise to Kaepernick, these athletes still continue to face heavy scrutiny where comments about their salary are made, suggesting that such athletes did not experience systemic racism due to their wealth and financial stability.

Fast forward to 2019, Masai Ujiri was blocked and shoved by the Alameda County sheriff from celebrating with his team due to allegedly not having the correct credentials. A new video released in August 2020 showed otherwise where Ujiri was shoved while having his credentials. The public viewed this incident as a classic case of racial profiling, despite status or wealth being present.

As we look more recently, following the game seven loss by the Toronto Raptors in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the public heavily critiqued Pascal Siakam’s play; however, it was brought to our attention that some fans have gone too far and made racial attacks against him.

The aforementioned stories have shined the light on the racism that athletes face consistently but continues to be ignored. As we look more directly at our own community, former lacrosse team player Steven Archachan was only removed from the team (but not from the university) following the revelation of tweets that featured racist slurs. With that being said, Archachan removed himself from the university and stated he would not be attending in the future. Archachan has since apologized for his tweets, while stating to one of our reporters that he was dealing with issues affecting his mental health and well-being at that time.

Kwasi Adu-Poku, a fifth-year kinesiology student at McMaster University and current member of the men’s basketball team, shared his thoughts on the handling of the situation. 

“When they released the article through CBC Hamilton on the situation, when they described [Archachan] choosing to leave the school, it kind of made him seem like the bigger person in the situation and when you think about the scope of what happened, a lot of people were impacted by this message,” Adu-Poku said. “It wasn’t the best thing to let that person paint themselves in that kind of light . . . a lot of us felt there could have been a stronger response at the time but our school is definitely on the trajectory to make a lot of the needed changes and now we’re being held publicly accountable.”

“When they released the article through CBC Hamilton on the situation, when they described [Archachan] choosing to leave the school, it kind of made him seem like the bigger person in the situation and when you think about the scope of what happened, a lot of people were impacted by this message,” Adu-Poku said. “It wasn’t the best thing to let that person paint themselves in that kind of light . . . a lot of us felt there could have been a stronger response at the time but our school is definitely on the trajectory to make a lot of the needed changes and now we’re being held publicly accountable.”

As the case of Archachan began to unfold, former Marauder athletes came forward with their stories. Fabion Foote, a former football player at McMaster, has detailed the systemic racism he faced while on the team. 

“My DL coach at Mac said I had to sell weed to afford my tuition lol. Keep in mind I never smoked in my life. My friend was in a group chat were a white athlete used the N word. My teammate reported it to the coaches and they some how managed to blame us for it,” Foote stated among a series of tweets discussing the systemic racism he endured while at McMaster.

“My DL coach at Mac said I had to sell weed to afford my tuition lol. Keep in mind I never smoked in my life. My friend was in a group chat were a white athlete used the N word. My teammate reported it to the coaches and they some how managed to blame us for it,” Foote stated among a series of tweets discussing the systemic racism he endured while at McMaster.

The racial profiling Foote experienced was echoed by John Williams, a former McMaster athlete who penned a letter via a Google Form, detailing the failures of the university attempting to support the Black and Indigenous community while asking people to support his statement. 

“One former athlete detailed how a certain post practice locker room day of the week was entitled "White Boy Wednesdays" where only "White Music" was allowed to be played. Another athlete spoke about how when the team travelled to Toronto the other white teammates asked them if they were "going to be shot by any of the brothers?" Another Black former female athlete spoke about her feelings of isolation while being on the team and how she felt treated differently by coaches,” wrote Williams.

“One former athlete detailed how a certain post practice locker room day of the week was entitled "White Boy Wednesdays" where only "White Music" was allowed to be played. Another athlete spoke about how when the team travelled to Toronto the other white teammates asked them if they were "going to be shot by any of the brothers?" Another Black former female athlete spoke about her feelings of isolation while being on the team and how she felt treated differently by coaches,” wrote Williams.

Williams also claimed that former Director of Athletics, Glen Grunwald, current Director, Mark Alfano and Dean of Students Sean Van Koughnett did not take action on the issues Black football athletes endured while on the team. 

Following the various critiques, the university announced in July they are conducting a review into the countless experiences of Black athletes and investigating the racism within the department of athletics, which will be headed by Van Koughnett. He aims to hire more Black leaders in the McMaster Athletics department.

Adu-Poku explained to us his appreciation for Van Koughnett’s willingness to work with him and open-ears regarding a discussion about celebrating Black history. Adu-Poku also spoke to non-athletes in the McMaster Black student community and echoed their hopes that this review could act as a blueprint to combat systemic racism in an academic setting.

From Foote’s story to Archachan’s racial slurs, it shows that over the years, racism has never really left the McMaster Athletics department. It was just a matter of time until serious demands for accountability occurred.

Trying to chase your dreams in a system built to stop you is futile, and things need to change

cw: police brutality, white supremacy, anti-Black racism

My university was one of the last to close in March due to COVID-19. I went home and revisited the quiet, passive-aggressive racism prevalent in Ottawa. Yet I feared for my black partner’s life where cops patrolled the streets, supposedly ensuring people are ‘safe’. The question is now: safe from what and safe from who?

A year ago, I faced fraud in my bank account. Instead of my bank backing me as a loyal, responsible customer, and the daughter of very loyal, giving customers, they took a look at my black face and assumed I was at fault. To be honest, I hadn’t realized that until my father pointed it out to me as I phoned him from the bank, frustrated from being bounced around and receiving no help.

A year ago, I lost all my money that I earned working seven-hour evening shifts with a maximum course load. I did all that with extracurriculars because I have to bolster my resume, since I often lack the white connections to get interviews, but also to help me when my black face shows up to the interview that is full of white and model minorities. Although a part of me knows I shouldn’t worry all night about my braids that I love and how it will come across in the interview, it’s my reality.

The bank froze all my accounts and used my chequing account to pay them back for the cost of the fraud. Then they referred me to collections to avoid a major credit pitfall, all before I had received my first credit card.

So, when a cop pulls over my partner for speeding, spends too many minutes back at his car, and I’m in the passenger seat fighting a panic attack; no one can tell me I’m being paranoid or have nothing to worry about because I have done nothing. I often do nothing wrong. I am often very impressive but not the ideal candidate. I am often forced to defend myself against the consequences of allegations before they are even proven, and even if they’re illogical.

So, when a cop pulls over my partner for speeding, spends too many minutes back at his car, and I’m in the passenger seat fighting a panic attack; no one can tell me I’m being paranoid or have nothing to worry about because I have done nothing. I often do nothing wrong. I am often very impressive but not the ideal candidate. I am often forced to defend myself against the consequences of allegations before they are even proven, and even if they’re illogical.

What I have just outlined to you is my day-to-day life navigating white supremacist and racist establishments, because they are everywhere. At my school, at my job and because I’m a student and experience shared living, sometimes at home. Sometimes my resilience scares me, because no one should have to endure this constant oppression, constant hunting, constant murders, constant suffocation. Yet we do.

George Floyd was a person. Interviews and quotes make it clear that he was loved because of how caring and helpful he was. Instead, many news outlets have focused on his athleticism, and how much he needed to improve as a father and in life. It’s like a newspaper memorial for a show dog.

C/O munshots on Unsplash

It is not a black-specific issue to be a less-than-perfect father. But to watch your father die on live television, lying under the weight of an officer’s knee to the back of his neck, is a black-specific issue. To then watch that video circulate seemingly everywhere, as if it was game being killed and not your parent, is a black-specific issue. White supremacists cause broken homes and then write laws and create systems to disadvantage people with and from broken homes.

The commodification of the dead black body is completely out of hand. They say one of the main reasons why these videos exist is for evidence, because the police establishment has hunted countless black lives without evidence, without consequences, and without remorse. According to the dictionary, the definition of the word ‘hunt’ is to pursue or search and then capture and kill. How do you go about reprimanding the authority figure?

Is it really about evidence? President Donald Trump has been charged with fraud and has received numerous accusations of sexual assault, yet he remains unpunished, still in office as the president of the United States. Where is the evidence that justified Floyd’s arrest, let alone that would justify his murder? If rules only apply to certain groups or people based on status, and powerful people can use these rules to control groups, then we are the sheep being kept ‘in order’, not human beings with their own minds and aspirations.

Thankfully, when I deposited the fraudulent cheque into my account, the police did not show up at the bank. The bank froze my accounts but they never alerted me. When I figured out something was wrong and called the bank, they specifically told me to go into a branch. I went in and stayed all by myself, considering the bank advertises fraud and scam protection and that I had done my due diligence when depositing the cheque.

I was initially hesitant to deposit the cheque when I first received it, so I went to the bank and was assured by the teller that everything would be fine. She advised me to deposit the cheque because the bank would put a hold on it, and would notify me once it was cleared. Yet once I noticed my account had been frozen and I went to the bank to resolve the situation,  I was informed the hold system was automatic, meaning it automatically lifts after seven business days — whether or not the bank had actually cleared the cheque.

That was not what was communicated to me at any point. The bank instructed me to come into the branch to clear up the problem once I realized. Yet when I got there, the bank, who I was assured would notify me if the cheque was fraudulent, told me I had authorized the fraudulent cheque when I transferred money out of my account.

How would I have known if the police had been called, or if they showed up, how would I know if they were there for me? Floyd could have been me: moved to a new place for a new start, job, and/or school, and was a helping, gentle soul according to colleagues, customers, friends and family.

How would I have known if the police had been called, or if they showed up, how would I know if they were there for me? Floyd could have been me: moved to a new place for a new start, job, and/or school, and was a helping, gentle soul according to colleagues, customers, friends and family.

So, what are the grounds for Floyd’s arrest with its subsequent assault? An alleged forged cheque is not enough. What are the excuses for his murder? Because he was unarmed yet was pinned under an officer’s knee — which is not a part of police training. Some people are hung up on that point, but even trained, law-abiding officers murder people. They aren’t reprimanded because they are doing their jobs.

"They were supposed to be there to serve and to protect and I didn't see a single one of them lift a finger to do anything to help while he was begging for his life,” stated Tera Brown, Floyd's cousin, to CNN. “Not one of them tried to do anything to help him."

One of the biggest lies we have been sold, is that the police are there to protect us. They are actually hired to protect property and to protect the establishment. Furthermore, the white supremacist foundation of the police force encourages abuse of power and systemic oppression.

People always say if you don’t chase your dreams, someone will pay you to help them chase theirs. That’s what a job is. We sign up to help a person or establishment realize their dream. Except many establishments’ dreams are our nightmares. Yet, we are almost never given the choice not to aid and abet the white supremacist nightmare. It is inescapable because it is ingrained within and throughout our systems.

People always say if you don’t chase your dreams, someone will pay you to help them chase theirs. That’s what a job is. We sign up to help a person or establishment realize their dream. Except many establishments’ dreams are our nightmares. Yet, we are almost never given the choice not to aid and abet the white supremacist nightmare. It is inescapable because it is ingrained within and throughout our systems.

I am a student so I need to have a bank account or job to support my needs, yet I have to face racism at the bank, on campus grounds, in class, at office hours, at interviews, at work, from my boss, from customers, from my professors, from classmates, from colleagues — it goes on and on. Oftentimes, these people are simply doing their jobs.

It is not simply snarky remarks but laws, bylaws and guidelines allowing legal, racist actions against people. White supremacy is so thorough in delivering its racism that it decides legitimacy. Honestly, it decides how we live. Yet it serves a specific type of person – the rich, white, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied, male with a socially-acceptable level of mental health issues.

What is also insidious about the alignment between the North American police establishment, government and news is that we have become accustomed to feeling small, inactive, disempowered and incapable. However, history will show you that when the people have had enough and they collect and organize, the powers and establishments have to listen. Right now, they’re not really listening and we aren’t really waiting—we’re acting.

But I am not enforcing chaos or a new ruling class, because the other leech tactic of white supremacy is to divide and conquer. That’s why model minority groups can add to the harassment I face because they are rewarded with privilege for aiding oppression, although the system is hardly serving their needs either.

Instead minorities are morphing themselves to be whiter to better experience the system. The issue with that is you cannot change the colour of your skin. So, you still face racism, no matter what you do. It was never about merit or actions; it was simply about power.

Clearly, the system is not working, and it’s beyond the point where the issue is simply a miscommunication because white supremacy is so deeply rooted within the system. We have tried to fit in and move through the system, but it is debilitating mentally, emotionally and too often physically. Instead of wasting our energy on existing by their rules, it’s time we have a say in what the rules are by rewriting them. This time, everyone needs to have a say. But that is only possible if we understand all the ways the system fails us and the ways in which we fail each other as groups, as leaders, as establishments of people; and rewriting the rules without ego but instead to resolve those failings.

C/O TVBEATS on Unsplash

That statement to involve everyone may seem ‘crazy’ to you, but that’s because that’s been sold to you as 'crazy' countless times before. When in reality, what that easily looks like is using whatever power you have in your position to seek out and hear others’ experiences, then doing whatever you can to change the system. This can look like bringing concerns to the right people or organizing to change processes yourself. Your privilege allows you a voice and a say, giving you the power to inform policy, law and change. Use it.

It is not as simple as waiting for the space, surveys or calls for opinions. It is also about bugging people in positions of authority to listen and act and helping those already doing the work. It’s about never shutting up, and never settling, and that is much easier with everyone involved fighting for everyone’s issues. Until now, it has mostly been black queer women doing all the work. They are exhausted, I am exhausted, everyone needs to act.

Doing nothing is no longer acceptable. However, reposting on social media is classified as hardly doing anything, because it lacks your personal tone and influence. Even that is not enough because you assume that the white supremacist algorithm will circulate your posts, pictures and stories, when you could use the platform to directly connect with people instead — especially those willing to act and organize. It’s about having conversations and not assuming that people are on the same page or fighting the same fight.  

It’s also about avoiding the assumption that you lack power or everyone you know lacks power, when each of us are privileged in one way or another. There are many ways in which you are seen as more ideal than someone else. It’s time to wake up and be resourceful to educate yourself and others, to connect, organize, influence, act and cause change. It is not about being passive. It is about acting. Who do you know? What can you say? What can you do?

Figure out actionable steps for today, tomorrow, next week, next month and year, and DO them. This is going to be a long fight. Take your breaks, but exhaustion is not an excuse to stop fighting, especially if you are just now becoming exhausted. The hunt will continue, people will keep dying, and white supremacists and their lies will keep circulating.

 

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Photo C/O Afro Canadian Caribbean Association

Please note that this event has been postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 Virus. For more information please visit: https://accahamilton.com 

Since 1979, the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association has been creating a sense of community and empowerment in the African-Canadian Caribbean community in Hamilton. Evelyn Myrie, the president of ACCA, says that even though African-Canadians have been here for hundreds of years, they are still treated as though they don’t belong in this country. On March 13-14, ACCA will be holding an event called “We Are Planted Here: Narratives in Belonging”. The event will combine art and advocacy to dismantle this assumption, establishing the right that African Canadians have to feel at home in Canada, because it is their home. 

“[T]he objective of this initiative, symposium, celebration is to assert our existence and long-standing presence on these lands, on this land of Canada . . . there is still a perception [when] you're walking on the streets, there's an assumption that you are from another place. So it's really to situate our position as Canadians in various locations, to have conversations about our rich and diverse contributions to this land and to reassert our presence here . . . We're located here socially, politically and economically,” said Myrie. 

Not only is the physical presence of the Black community ignored, but so too are their contributions to Canada. Myrie says that she hopes the event will help to educate people both inside and outside of the Black community about Black history in Canada. She says that many of the social and human rights that we currently have were fought for by the Black community.

“[P]eople don't know that human rights laws, housing laws, we were the ones who were the canary in the mine, because we were the ones who suffered those experiences [and fought] to change laws, immigration laws, especially; Black people were not allowed to come to Canada and it was Black people who fought against [that]. And now we have a whole slew of different people coming to Canada—and wonderfully so—racialized people, who sometimes forget or don't know that they are benefiting from the struggles of the Black community,” said Myrie. 

“[P]eople don't know that human rights laws, housing laws, we were the ones who were the canary in the mine, because we were the ones who suffered those experiences [and fought] to change laws, immigration laws, especially; Black people were not allowed to come to Canada and it was Black people who fought against [that]. And now we have a whole slew of different people coming to Canada—and wonderfully so—racialized people, who sometimes forget or don't know that they are benefiting from the struggles of the Black community,”  

In the early days of mining, miners are said to have brought canaries with them into mines they worked in. Canaries are more vulnerable to carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases than humans, so a dead or sick canary would alert the miners to danger. In this metaphor, Myrie is suggesting that because Black people are far more likely to experience human rights violations, it frequently and unequally falls on their shoulders to fight for social change. Because they are so unequally adversely affected, they are the first to know when laws need to be changed. They were and are the canary in the coal mine.

Myrie hopes that this event will educate attendees on the pervasiveness of anti-Black racism and the othering of Black people, and the ways that this continues to be perpetuated in Canada, and that it will also encourage allies to examine their own actions and biases, and how they can seek to call out this behaviour in their day-to-day lives. Othering is a part of colonial discourse that creates an “Us versus Them” narrative, where the dominant group becomes accepted and the marginalized group is dehumanized and made into the “Other”. This manifests itself as increased violence towards marginalized groups, and removing them from mainstream media and discourse.

“So to us, anti-Black racism is a key part of this, because it's really just like white supremacy in that it keeps knowledge away . . . So we're telling our stories, because we know that anti-Black racism has kept those stories away from curriculums,” said Myrie.

“So to us, anti-Black racism is a key part of this, because it's really just like white supremacy in that it keeps knowledge away . . . So we're telling our stories, because we know that anti-Black racism has kept those stories away from curriculums,”

“We Are Planted Here: Narratives in Belonging” is a two day symposium. On Friday, March 13, there will be an evening of art and spoken word at the ACCA Banquet Hall (754 Barton St. E), and on Saturday March 14 there will be academic and community discussions at the Hamilton Central Library (55 York Blvd.). Both events are free.

 

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