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How far we haven’t come

By Dalhousie Gazette Staff

Diversity. It’s a bit of a buzzword like “sustainability” or “whazzap”. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, during what one might refer to as the Politically Correct Revolution, we in Canada began, in a bigger way than ever, to celebrate differences between people that in the past had been regarded as a divisive handicap. We came to see them for what they really are: a strength.
At The Gazette, we celebrate and revel in the cultural diversity of our campus and city. It is incredibly drab to imagine a place where all the music sounds the same and none of the food tastes like ginger. Or curry. Or jerk. We revel in this appreciation year round. We’ve covered top immigration stories; we’ve reviewed amazing African art shows; we’ve tried to bring to light gaps in services for students with disabilities, and students of colour.
It’s impossible, though, to celebrate love of diversity without having some feelings of tokenization.
The question is: How can you fairly cover diversity? Especially when you’re a Caucasian university student, like eight out of nine Gazette staffers. It’s a delicate issue, especially when our staff does not reflect the diversity of students at Dalhousie.
And why even make it an issue? Why make a point of drawing attention to something that maybe is better unmentioned? Why dedicate a whole issue to diversity when it has the potential of patronizing the topics we cover, making it seem like they got in print due to some sort of editorial concerted effort at affirmative action?
At university, it can be easy to forget that the people we go to class with come from different socio-economic backgrounds, families, ethnic groups and religious persuasions than we do. It’s easy to forget that many of our peers are living with disabilities, or have children or older dependents to look after. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come. And how far we haven’t come.
The 1960s demolition of Africville, the city’s oldest black neighbourhood, is one painful example. It came with a promise to end racial segregation, but African Nova Scotians were shuffled out with little money and no community. The memory still stings the minds of many Africville descendants, who are still waiting for an apology or compensation.
How does a newspaper even begin to approach issues of oppression, and systematic racism, ableism and xenophobia on campus, when, really, we’re mostly white, able-bodied young people?
To start, we believe in learning from other individuals on campus – profs and students – who are tackling these issues. Anthony Stewart, a tenured English professor at Dal, published a book last spring called You Must Be a Basketball Player that highlighted injustices in the university system.
“If you major in English, history or philosophy at this university, among the full-time professors, the only professor you’re going to get who’s a person of colour is me,” Stewart told The Gazette in an interview earlier this year.
Similarly, the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG) is set to launch a new publication in January called Racism in Perspective. The magazine will compile fiction and non-fiction submissions that bring issues of discrimination in Halifax to light.
Stewart’s book and NSPIRG’s ambitious project have set strong examples for The Gazette to follow. We don’t believe in relegating issues of diversity and oppression to one edition.
This edition of The Gazette is about approaching some issues of racism and ableism on campus, but it can’t and won’t be the end. The Gazette will continue to cover issues about the oppression faced by students on our campus. We’ll continue to strive for balanced, but accurate coverage of issues rarely at the forefront of major media. And we’ll try to make space for those on our campus who are too often silenced.
But, we also recognize that in some ways change starts at home, and if students are disenfranchised from their students’ union, from the services that are supposed to offer support, and even from the paper that is supposed to speak truth to the issues that effect all students, then our staff will stay whitewashed, our coverage will remain one-sided, and stories will remain untold.

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