By Ellen Spannagel
Photo is provided.
Images of Queen’s University students went viral on Nov. 23, showing mostly-white students partying while dressed in outfits that many perceived as culturally appropriative and racist.
The pictures from the party were posted on Twitter by comedian Celeste Yim, after Yim found them on a public Facebook album that has since been taken down.
In the photos, students can be seen wearing racist costumes, such as “Middle-Eastern” men with fake beards, and Viet Cong guerrillas wearing rice hats and carrying fake guns.
Evelyna Ekoko-Kay, a fourth-year English student at Queen’s, said she has mostly been frustrated with the student reaction to the photos, and the overall climate on campus.
“There are far too many students who are finding it to be totally acceptable to dress up as racial characters and to perform people’s identities as a joke,” she said.
Media outlets have confirmed this party has happened in previous years, but it’s unclear who hosted the event.
A statement released by the university reported the party was off-campus. Daniel Woolf, the principal and vice-chancellor of Queen’s, said in the statement that the university will continue to determine if the event was Queen’s-sponsored or sanctioned.
“Queen’s strives to be a diverse and inclusive community free from discrimination or harassment of any kind. Any event that degrades, mocks, or marginalizes a group or groups of people is completely unacceptable,” Woolf said.
According to the statement, the school will take appropriate action once it determines whether or not the event was hosted by the school.
According to Ekoko-Kay, this is not a result of a lack of awareness on the students’ behalf, but part of a bigger racism problem at Queen’s.
“It’s not as if we haven’t been talking about this. It’s not as if there weren’t posters all over for Halloween,” she said. “This is a direct reflection of a toxic culture inside of Queen’s.”
Ekoko-Kay said she is also upset with the backlash against students trying to speak out against the actions of those in the photos.
“Students are shaming people who have spoken out in any capacity. But the fact is, the majority of students of colour do not feel that this is acceptable,” she said.
Carleton global and international studies professor Kamari Clarke said she believes there are greater systemic issues at play when it comes to parties like the one held at Queen’s.
“This isn’t unfamiliar, of course. We’ve seen patterns of these practices as a result of racism being deeply embedded into our everyday values,” she said. “It goes all the way down to the notions of how we perceive race and cultural differences.”
“These are more than costumes. These are mindsets,” Clarke added.
As Queen’s investigates, it’s unclear how the institution will address the issue and what active measures it will take to combat racism going forward.
Ekoko-Kay said she believes letting this issue go without being properly addressed by the university shouldn’t be an option.
“Maybe publicly shaming our school is what is necessary to change and acknowledge the discrimination,” she said. “This is not an issue that will be solved by sweeping it under the rug. This isn’t about reputation, it’s about respect.”