Monday, October 19 marks the first event of the Racialized Students’ Collective (RSC), a new initiative created by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Social Justice and Equity Commission. The event, which will take place at Hart House from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, will be the first of many, in hopes of tackling issues faced by racialized students on campus by allowing them a platform through which they may express themselves.
Sania Khan, UTSU vice-president equity, proposed the formation of the RSC after engaging in a conversation with a few of her friends, who are also racialized students and active members in the U of T community. “The discussion that ensued was one of the most organic, profound, and impactful conversations that I’ve ever had,” she said.
“For hours we shared our experiences on how we navigate U of T as visible minorities. The feeling of camaraderie and compassion that [generated] from this discussion was what I had realized had been missing from the U of T St. George community.”
Khan pointed to her own experiences as a South Asian woman in a position of leadership as an example of one of the many issues faced by racialized students at U of T that need to be tackled on a public platform. “The most prevalent issue I deal with are micro-aggressions that are constantly being employed to undermine my opinions on the basis of them coming from a woman of colour,” she remarked.
“Since my opinions are informed by my lived experiences, I then find myself having to defend my lived experiences which is both exhausting and frustrating to continuously have to do,” Khan said, adding that she finds that the need to constantly explain herself to a “demographic that is more interested in undermining [her] words than learning from them” is an issue that she deals with regularly.
It is in response to these experiences that has led Khan to aim for the RSC’s events to be student-led. “Racialized folks need to know that their opinions, their feelings, their stories matter – no matter how uncomfortable these experiences may make the privileged,” she stated.
Apart from holding monthly events that will foster discussion on topics such as white supremacy, assimilation, cultural appropriation, and respectability politics, the RSC will also be divided in sub-committees that are responsible for meeting regularly and organizing events outside of the main monthly RSC events. These include sub-committees for Indigenous identified, black identified, South-Asian identified, West-Indian identified, East-Asian identified, Latin-American identified, Middle-Eastern identified, and mixed-heritage identified students. “The term ‘identified’ is imperative in this context, as students should be able to join as many sub-committees as they personally identify with,” stated Khan.
Overall, the goal of the RSC is to provide spaces in which racialized students can come together to safely discuss personal experiences, concerns, and narratives as members of minority groups. “Only once we fully understand the issues and barriers faced by members of racialized communities can we begin to tackle these issues head-on and create an environment that gives folks from all racialized backgrounds the sense of belonging, acceptance and validation that they need to feel empowered,” said Khan.