There is no question that diversity and inclusion are hot-button topics of conversation. With so much going on in the news and around the world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these social issues will come to the surface on both a micro and macro level. As tensions flare, it is important to stand unyielding on the path towards acceptance, tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.
This fall, posters and stickers were found around Brandon University and the community that alluded to white nationalism and white supremacy. Whilst trying to position itself as nationalism or pride, this type of message is deeply damaging to the people it undermines and appropriates. “Deliberately using vague language that appropriates the struggles of marginalized groups is nothing but offensive mimicry,” stated Brandon University in an institution-wide email. “These postings are designed to convince the naïve and to provoke divisive reactions while pretending innocence.”
Not long after the posters and stickers emerged at Brandon University, similar pieces were found around the University of Manitoba campus.
Manitoba’s universities and colleges, as well as Campus Manitoba, stand strongly and firmly by our commitment to inclusion, diversity, and universal human rights. These despicable messages have no place within our community or institutions. Brandon University recommends ways to unite in a response:
- Reaffirm your own support for diversity and inclusion. Be proud to be one of the people who keeps our campus so welcoming and safe.
- Go out of your way to make positive connections with people and groups who are dissimilar from you.
- Call out intolerance when you are able. If you can, use your privilege to advocate for and ally with others.
Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.
– Robert Green Ingersol
Learning from another lens
Earlier this fall, Campus Manitoba was able to take part in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, which focuses on reconciliation through education and understanding. This immersive and hands-on history lesson allows participants to gain a deeper understanding of our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Participating in the Blanket Exercise was an emotional and transformative experience,” states Kim Grenier Mintenko. “The exercise humanizes the events of our shared history and in doing so, motivates participants to consider what it means to be an ally to Indigenous peoples today. I would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to participate to do so.”
During the 90-minute participatory session, individuals read through a series of scrolls. The scrolls describe the lives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people from first contact with Europeans through to colonization and the eventual uprising. It is important to recognize the damage and extreme hardships placed upon these individuals and tribes of people. Only when a shared understanding and recognition of the truth of what happened to Indigenous people occurs can healing and reconciliation happen.
Use your privilege to be an ally
Once the session was complete, we took part in a sharing circle, which was both emotional and restorative. Participants discussed their own feelings of the process and shared personal stories of racism and discrimination. This provided an opportunity to reconcile and digest everything taken in.
I walked in the footsteps of a mother. There was a moment during the exercise where my child and I were separated from our tribe. During our displacement, I ended up dying from smallpox. As a mother, it was heartbreaking to watch my child be given away to a stranger and then end up in a residential school, where a high percentage of children were abused.
The Kairos blanket exercise was a valuable morning of learning and sharing. It helped expand historical understanding and brought up practical strategies on how to take a stand and be an ally against racism. If you don’t know where to begin, start by looking for learning opportunities. Lastly, remember that tolerance is a journey. As Whitney Blankenship said, “Learning leads to understanding. Understanding leads to tolerance. Tolerance leads to acceptance. Acceptance leads to peace. And above all, peace leads to love.”
Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public post-secondary institutions. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.ca, setyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.