Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your race or ethnicity? If so, you are not alone, as was made clear at an event on campus this week called “Pardon Me For Being ________.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 24, the Black Awareness Student Initiative Network (BASIN) provided a screening of the satirical film Dear White People at Halpern Centre. The film draws on the experiences of African-American college students in the United States.
At the conclusion of the screening, participants contributed to a dialogue regarding the issues addressed in the film and their own personal experiences regarding racism and discrimination.
BASIN is an SFU student-led organization that works to provide a support network for people of African and Caribbean descent. It also provides education and awareness regarding the diversity of black experiences.
According to the event description, “Pardon Me For Being ________.” was put together as an initiative to “unite Black, Biracial, Coloured Caribbean and African diaspora students and our allies within the SFU community,” in order to bring to light to the experiences of those community members.
“The event was made to offer the SFU community a platform to discuss issues of race and discrimination with others as a means to share ideas and concerns we have as well as to share solutions,” said Robyn Bloomfield, president of BASIN. “Our hope is to provide our community with a physical oneness and presence on campus, offering support to whomever is in need.
Bloomfield emphasized that issues concerning race and discrimination need to be discussed rather than internalized. She explained, “Many of our experiences are silenced rather than voiced. This event provides us with the opportunity to think critically about our experiences and how these issues still exist.”
While the month of February is officially recognized as being Black History Month, the identity and character associated with these experiences are not confined to a month alone. “While Black History Month is a great way to learn from the experiences of my ancestors, people need to realize that being black is a constant, everyday experience,” explained Miriam Sise, an at-large member of BASIN’s executive team.
She continued, “It is hard to be in a classroom or walk through the halls and see nobody who looks like you.”
Bloomfield and Sise also pointed out that the often one-dimensional portrayal and tokenization of black people’s experiences in the media does not fully encompassing the full range of experiences; while many people share a skin colour, this does not necessarily mean that they come from the same place and cultural background.
“Our project is not about merely being ‘black,’” said Sise. “We are acknowledging that racism is an inherent part of modern society. Being aware of [the multitude of] experiences allow people from many different countries to feel included in our initiatives.”