Discussion continues despite harassment

LSPIRG (Andreas) online

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Earlier this week, large posters from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Diversity and Equity Office and Laurier’s Student Public Interest Research Group’s “I’m not a costume” campaign were defaced on campus when students crossed out the “not” and added a winky face emoticon with a permanent black marker.

Additionally, LSPIRG’s post on Facebook promoting the campaign went viral with over one million people reached, over 12,000 shares and 2,000 likes with comments varying from racist remarks to support from various Laurier students and members of the DEO.

“We started trying to engage some of the folks on cultural appropriation and racism and other forms of oppression … on the one hand, we have seen some push back and seen some positive shares,” said Mohammed Akbar, administration and development director at LSPIRG. “It’s really disheartening. LSPIRG doesn’t tolerate racist remarks on posters of individuals in our community.”

Special Constable Services was notified Saturday evening when the defaced posters were found, but no descriptors of suspects are available.

The Diversity and Equity Office contacted those in the posters to offer support and to make sure they were okay when they were notified about the vandalism.

The Facebook post began to go viral Sunday evening and Monday morning, reaching individuals in the United States.

Comments on the post said that Halloween is supposed to be “fun” and a “joke” for one day of the year.

On Tuesday evening, LSPIRG sent out a press release saying they condemn the vandalism and harrassment they have received toward the campaign.

“I don’t think we expected this much negativity, especially when the campaign’s been run in the past and the Laurier community’s usually been pretty supportive,” Akbar said.   “But we’re still eager to engage and talk to the Laurier community about these issues,”

Laura Mae Lindo, director of the Diversity and Equity Office, said that while the actions of the students defacing the posters and the negative comments on Facebook are not at all tolerated, it helped reinforce the need for discussions such as this campaign.

“Until people say these kinds of things or do these kinds of things, we actually don’t know what issues we have on campus,” she said.

“It’s a learning moment … it’s an opportunity for us to take a really interesting campaign and recognize that it’s valuable in that it can initiate these kinds of discussions, even though it may not be the way you anticipated initiating discussions.”

Lindo said there is a lot of history around Halloween and people find costumes to be “humorous.”

With four days until the actual occasion, it is important to continue to address the harm of wearing racist costumes and keep a dialogue going about these issues on campus.

The campaign is still being shared online and posters are up on campus.

With only a few days until Halloween, Lindo is hoping discussion can continue so that culture appropriation is something students are aware of when choosing a costume.

LSPIRG is hoping to hold a Laurier-centred workshop that focuses on racism and culture appropriation before Saturday to continue the discussion.

“We want to try to engage the campus as much as possible and make sure we’re still talking about the issues at hand and not being distracted,” Akbar explained.

Lindo was impressed by the presence of Laurier students on LSPIRG’s Facebook posting supporting the campaign and raising awareness.

The campaign is meant to make students be mindful of what they are for Halloween, and continue to acknowledge culture appropriation.

“It’s not just a handful of people, whether it’s in LSPIRG or the DEO that are speaking back. It’s the Laurier community that [is] speaking back.”

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