“Being Black at U of T wasn’t easy and I’m happy I finally graduated,” begins one post by the new Instagram account @beingblackatuoft. Since its first post on July 21, the account has been sharing numerous similar stories by anonymous Black U of T students about their experiences of anti-Black racism on campus.
The two individuals behind the account, who have asked to remain anonymous for their own safety, wrote to The Varsity that they started the page “to give the black population at Uoft a platform to communicate their feelings,” noting that “it’s disheartening for us who have dealt with racism all our lives notice that everyone’s ‘waking up’ now when this has been going on for ages.”
In the page’s bio, it says the account is inspired by the Instagram page @stolenbysmith, a similar initiative where queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and other racialized members of Queen’s University Smith School of Business share experiences of discrimination by fellow students, administration, alumni, and student organizations.
The racist acts described in the posts of @beingblackatuoft span across the university community, detailing interactions with students, professors, student groups, and the administration.
One student described an American literature professor using the ‘n’ word during readings in class. Another student recalled being told by their peers that they only receive scholarships and jobs due to their identity as a minoritized person.
In addition to the individual experiences shared on the page, the account admins have also created a timeline of racist events at U of T, which includes the recent story where three Black students described racism at Trinity College in an op-ed for The Varsity, as well as the appointment of Margaret Wente — a journalist who has been criticized for promoting pseudo-scientific claims about race, as well as plagiarism and transphobia — to a membership position in Massey College’s Quadrangle Society.
The list goes as far back as 2009, when five students won best costume at a party held by three college student councils for their portrayal of the Jamaican bobsled team, which included blackface.
“This platform lets them know that they have a home here with the rest of their peers,” noted the creators of @beingblackatuoft.
A university spokesperson wrote to The Varsity that “For the 2020/2021 school year, [the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office] has developed and launched a three-module training series focused specifically on anti-Black racism. Registration for the offerings in 2020 are already at capacity.”
“The University acknowledges that education and training alone is not enough and so we continue to work with our faculty, staff and students to address anti-Black racism and create an inclusive and welcoming community.”
The spokesperson also noted that U of T is hosting a national dialogue on anti-Black racism in Canadian postsecondary education coordinated by Vice-President and Principal of UTSC Wisdom Tettey and Executive Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Karima Hashmani.
Editor’s Note (August 27, 8:47 pm): This article has been corrected to remove claims that Wente was appointed as a senior fellow at Massey College. The Varsity has learned that Wente was only appointed as a member of the Quadrangle Society.