Kicked out of a movie night for the colour of my skin

How can this campus group claim to fight oppression?

From the film Precious Knowledge

A friend and I went to a movie night one Friday evening in January hosted by the Students of Colour Collective (SOCC), a campus group at the University of Victoria, where I am on a transfer from the University of Manitoba completing a double major in Criminology and Psychology.

It was a spur of the moment decision to go, but we were excited to get out and have a fun night. The movie being presented was Precious Knowledge, a film about the struggle of the Mexican American Studies Program to continue after it was banned by a school board in Arizona.

We arrived, sat down and waited for the movie to begin. My friend asked if he could help himself to a glass of the juice that was set out on the table. The host replied that the beverages were for movie night attendees. She then informed us that the event was for community building and not open to the public. We were specifically addressed in front of the room of people. There was no announcement that it was a closed event.

Instead, we were singled out. The host explained the movie night was only open to “people of colour” and “Indigenous people.” With that, the host asked my friend and me to leave. She apologized for any inconvenience and added that she was sorry, but that it was a closed event.

My friend and I both appear white, but we are both Indigenous. In fact, I am a card carrying member of the Manitoba Métis Federation and a citizen of the Métis Nation. I am a direct descendant of some of the first people to arrive in Canada from England. Peter Fidler came to Canada from England, worked with the Hudson’s Bay Company and married Mary Mackagon, a Swampy Cree from Norway House in 1821. That’s how the legacy of my ancestors began here in Canada. Métis people often face discrimination from both white and Native communities, many times due to difference in skin colour. Systematic oppression of the Métis was a result of colonization that is still felt by many today.

We left the movie night feeling unwelcome. We didn’t feel comfortable testifying to our Aboriginalness in front of a room full of people who just watched us essentially be kicked out.

In my opinion, we experienced extreme racism by a student group that claims to “actively work against oppression.”

After scouring both of the SOCC websites, I could not locate any information on closed events, but this idea seems racist and highly exclusionary. I did locate a statement on the SOCC website that said, “ally hours are usually Monday to Friday.”  I was not able to locate what an “ally” is, but from my experience I would assume it is an individual who does not identify as Indigenous or coloured.  This suggests people with the wrong skin colour are only welcome during certain hours.

I contacted the SOCC to ask a few other questions. However, the opportunity to comment was declined. I was advised by Jessica Humphries, the SOCC coordinator, that they would be collaborating with the Native Students Union on an article in The Martlet student newspaper on March 28th. The SOCC would not speak with me on the record, but via e-mail Humphries offered to “sit down and have a meaningful conversation outside of this notion of being asked to comment.”

I understand the need for spaces where people can feel safe. Everyone wants to live in a world where they are not victims of prejudice and hatred. But when securing safety for one creates oppression for another, how can we claim to have a safe space? Should my lack of visibly coloured skin be something that prevents me from entering a room of my peers? Should I be judged based on the color of my skin at all? Disallowing someone from an event as simple as a movie night, based on race, seems to me to be actively creating oppression.

It is not inclusive to systematically exclude people based on the colour of their skin, be it black, white, red or yellow.  If a room of white people told people with coloured skin they were not welcome due to their appearance, uproar would result. These concepts of racially closed spaces do not appear to create an environment that fosters equality and open dialogue. Having to make an appointment or attend the office during “ally” hours does not seem accepting. If we exclude someone based on the colour of their skin, how can we identify as anti-racist?

Racially closed events should not be allowed on campus.




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Kicked out of a movie night for the colour of my skin

  1. Applause!!

  2. Reverse racism is not a thing. These spaces should exists on campus. This person clearly has white privelage they are not realizing.

    • Reverse Racism? Do you mean racism against people of white skin color? Racism is treating someone of a different color differently, it doesn’t matter who you’re speaking about.

      That’s ridiculous to say “Oh you can insult white people because you can’t be racist to white people!”. It’s a two-way street.

  3. Wtf. She says that Indigenous and students of colour shouldnt have their own spaces and then she gets pissed off that she was asked to leave a movie where she didnt respect that space. She has a responsbility to respect those spaces.

  4. What is so hurtful about this article is that she doesn’t think that IPOCs are able to make distinctions between themselves and allies. She seems to believe that racialized experiences don’t exist. Which defeat the valid points she raises about the erasure of Metis folk in antiracist movements. She is making a claim that IPOC only spaces are racist (reverse racist) but then stakes a claim to them. Yet she has not critique of the fact that UVic and the University are racist institutions, and that MaCleans are allies in the agenda to maintain white supremacy on campus – remember “Too Asian.” My hope is that this article does not alienate Metis folks but creates unity in an effort to challenge what IPOC spaces can and should be like – in their very right to exist.

    Last but not least, this article is built on lies as the author was asked to make a descicion for herself as to if she wanted to stay, and that no assumptions were being made about her identity. She states that clearly in another letter, but has conveinently chosen to omit that information.

  5. These spaces serve an important function and are much-needed on campus. Safe spaces for queer, trans*, women, or people of colour sometimes require excluding people who don’t identify as such.

    However, this incident was clearly mishandled. The nature of the event and who was welcome to attend should have been made clearer on the posters and other advertising. The public and embarassing conflict should not have happened the way it did. Perhaps that conversation should have happened in the hallway away from an audience. It also should have been an open explanation and not made an assumption about the two women’s identities.

  6. I think Kevin has a good point.

  7. I completely agree with this article. Don’t fight violence with violence; Don’t fight racism with racism. Do you think that isolating other races from yourselves will create a more accepting world.
    I thought we were moving towards a world where colour simply doesn’t matter. This seems to be backtracking.

  8. Wow this really sucks, and I can’t believe people are attacking her for writing it. I wouldn’t even think about stepping into a space like that, because I prefer to hang out with real people who appreciate me for who I am and don’t just see colour and gender and all the stupid “stats” when looking at me, which is exactly what these people perpetuate. They accuse the whole world of oppression, but to me, the only people I have ever felt threatened or “oppressed” by on my campus are the radicals. Sorry for your experience.

  9. Hi Kevin,

    It was actually clear on the advertising that this event was a closed space. SOCC holds IPOC events on a regular basis and they are well-advertised. However, word of mouth and Facebook invites lead to people attending events without being super clear on the intentions of the space.

    There is also significant disagreement between what happened at the meeting. Many attendees say what happened was an open explanation, as you suggested. The original letter published in the UVic student newspaper failed to thoroughly fact-check what happened, simply whether or not an event was held and whether or not people left. Essentially, Macleans has published a story based on unverified hearsay. If Macleans has fact-checked these events and can provide verification this is indeed what transpired, instead of one recounting amongst many different versions of events, then I would like them to provide that.

    • Why are you advertising for an event that is ‘closed’? Last time I checked such events should usually be invite only. I’m pretty sure it’s a universal assumption that when an event is advertised to the public, it is open to the public. I frequently promote events through the research centres that I am associated with, if they are private or invitation-only (‘closed’) then we use email, if they are open to the public then we use social media and posters… it seems straight forward to me. What does the SOCC even mean by ‘closed’ anyway? And what kind of ‘community’ are they trying to foster?

  10. I think the big picture is being missed here by everyone.
    This is Victoria’s experience, as she experienced whatever transpired. You can’t ask her not to feel how she felt.
    The message I see here is that a group that is supposedly about safety and inclusiveness met and two people who were not ‘invited’ attended, and the leadership of this group did not have the werewithal to see how their words and actions would be seen on the other side of the ‘intrusion.’ If the group were truly about making people feel safe they would have known to privately pull aside the ‘problem’ and discuss that it was a closed event, and “I apologize if you are ‘of colour.”
    Way back when I was in university, these spaces were open – and without them being open, how can you educate others to promote inclusion and safety? Sounds like the SOCC is more of a club than an awareness group. I’m saddened that any of my tuition dollars at UVic would have gone to help promote such closed-door organizations.

  11. A couple of lies in this article:
    1. It was made clear that the event was only open to IPOC folks
    2. The author and her friend arrived when SOCC was still setting up for the movie. The room was virtually empty and no one at any point made any assumptions about their identity or asked them to leave.

    The fact that the author identifies as indigenous yet alludes to the notion of reverse-racism is completely ridiculous!

  12. Whether this story is factual or not, welcome to the new world. Reverse racisim. Anyone considered or assumed to be ‘white’ is on a slippery slope these days. Then break it down again, and you have races within races offering up more reverse racism. Enough.

    Who cares what colour or gender you are. I am going to be optimistic and guess the majority of people don’t care.

    I think universities however are breeding new warped views as it attracts angry individuals who are perhaps down on their luck? I think its fine to form groups to help support certain people, but it’s gotten to the point where we can’t take them seriously anymore. Is all this anger just a reaction to the world economy in the toilet? People are frustrated, so they point fingers at everyone else?

    • Thanks for commenting. I was afraid that I’d awoken is some other dimension with all the people here rationalizing discrimination. What possible purpose could excluding “white” people from this type of event have? Racism against white people may be not the pressing social concern that racism against other people is but that still doesn’t make it right. In fact the term “reverse racism” is itself racist because it implicitly defines regular old racism as being the sole domain of caucasian people.

  13. Wow, it’s rare that I get to see so much political correctness crammed into one comment thread.One of these days I hope we can stop trying to find discrimination under every rock and get along together sans the guilt-manipulation.

  14. SOCC also believes all men are oppressors, even men of colour, as stated on their website: “We also want men of colour to confront their own misogyny and the ways in which they contribute to sexual oppression.” http://www.uvss.uvic.ca/socc/socc_about.htm

    There are probably several thousand “visible minority” (non-Caucasian) students at UVic but only around 10 of them appear to be active in this small and extreme organization. Nevertheless they receive a budget of $15,000 a year in student fees. I’ve thought about trying to opt out, but that would require entering their office which I as a Caucasian Canadian (albeit with a small percentage of Cherokee blood) am not allowed to do.

  15. From victoria perrie’s Facebook:

    Victoria Perrie: I think this thing about ‘power’ is a bit much. We live in a predominantly white society, isnt it ‘understandable’ that there are more white people in places of power here than non white people..??
    Like if you go to india or asia, where the population is mostly ‘indian’ or ‘asian’, you wont find many white people in places of power there, because there arent as many as there are here!
    Their use of the word ‘colonial’ when saying colonial violence bothers me. Colonialism died a long time ago. They use it the same way that Republicans use ‘communist’ when referring to Obama. It’s just a call-word to bring up bad sentiments and incite people to their cause.

    Interesting that she tries so hard to have it known that she is metis, but then doesn’t think that Colonialism is a thing.

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