Students at the Universite de Montreal’s Haute Études Commerciales (HEC) put their school on the map in a bad way earlier this month when a group of students took part in a racist “celebration” at the university stadium.
According to the Huffington Post:
“One witness, who is of Jamaican descent, said he felt uncomfortable and was shocked to hear some students chanting, ‘Smoke more weed.’
McGill law student Anthony Morgan, who happened to be on the campus at the time, says the students were doing the chanting in Jamaican accents. Some also wore yellow-and-green track outlets, like the Jamaican Olympic team.”
Here’s a video clip (trigger warning for racism):
As Renee at Womanist Musings points out in her excellent analysis of the incident, the school’s response was less than impressive. Initially, they released a statement essentially saying that the participating students had no ill intentions though the stunt was not acceptable. Only after Morgan went to the media and speculated that he would file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, did school representatives go on TV, apologize, and promise to incorporate racial sensitivity training into the school framework to ensure future incidents don’t happen again.
But this was an event which involved several students and was planned for weeks in advance, not likely something that can be easily resolved through making students take a token sensitivity class. Morgan is going ahead with his complaint to the HRC, in hopes that an official investigation will be better able to determine how HEC should proceed.
White people putting on black face makeup was a popular form of entertainment in the 1830s and 1840s. It was often used to demean black people and make them seem stupid and cartoonish, exactly what the students at HEC did. Whether or not it was intentional for all of them, at least some of them should’ve known better.
This type of incident reminds us that Canadians are not above these racist displays, and as much as we’d like to think individual racism is a thing of the past and we only have structural racism to tackle, the attitudes behind the minstrel shows are still with us.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Jean Gagnon)