University of Windsor group observes day of mourning in protest of anti-Black racism

A group at the University of Windsor has declared Monday a day of mourning over anti-Black racism.

The University has had an increasing number of racist incidents in the last few months

Richard Douglass-Chin, a tenured faculty member in the Department of English Languages and Literature at the university and a member of RAACES, says he took part in the day of mourning Monday. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

A group at the University of Windsor observed its first day of mourning over anti-Black racism Monday.

The group, Researchers, Academics, Advocates of Colour for Equity in Solidarity (RAACES) is taking a stand after a series of anti-Black racism incidents on campus, including multiple professors using the N-word during courses and threats of violence against Black students by an off-campus fraternity.

In a news release, RAACES says that the day of mourning will be the first Monday in each month until "the university has addressed the demands made by Black students and faculty." 

Richard Douglass-Chin, a professor who is a member of RAACES, said faculty who are participating in the day will be observing by not answering emails or messages. 

"This day of mourning is about the ways in which we see black students, black faculty, see this continuing brutality and fear and also erasure at the same time on our bodies, on our minds, as we try to do the same thing that all students want to do, [which] is teach and get an education,"he told host Tony Doucette on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning. 

RAACES says professors should provide accommodations for Black students to use this day of mourning similar to mourning the loss of family member and grant them assignment extensions and exam cancellations. 

He said he felt this action was necessary after a number of incidents, most recently a racist email that he personally received Monday morning. 

"There's a lot, a lot of fear on campus now where we're seeing a real uptick in some real very white supremacist push back," he said. 

Douglass-Chin was not the only one who received a racist note to his inbox. 

In a letter sent out to students, UWindsor president Robert Gordon said several faculty members and students "received racist, threatening and hateful anonymous messages, and they are extremely disturbing to read." 

The University of Windsor says 'nothing is more important' than the steps it is taking to fight anti-Black racism on campus. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The emails, the letter continues, have been forwarded to campus community police and the Windsor Police Service. An investigation has been launched and "those found responsible will be subject to serious disciplinary action and potential criminal charges," the letter states. 

Douglass-Chin said that while Gordon is "trying hard," he is also part of the "very white system." 

He said Gordon should engage in a public discussion rather than hiding behind the institution. 

And part of this, he said, is the way the president is handling the situation with Jordan Afolabi. 

Last week, CBC News reported that the university apologized to Afolabi, a Black student, after an independent adjudicator found that senior administration mishandled his complaint about a fight on campus.

Adjudicator Bruce Elman wrote that investigators with the university made "serious procedural errors" and took an "unacceptable amount of time" handling Afolabi's complaint.

Afolabi was banned from campus by the university during the investigation, while the other student, later deemed to be the aggressor in the fight, was allowed to continue attending classes.

Douglass-Chin said Afolabi is owed a public apology from Gordon. 

In response to RAACES day of mourning, the university said in an emailed statement that it "needs to fully address racial injustice, as it manifests in society, and as it has manifested on our campus. We are taking action and moving faster to do more to address the experiences of students, faculty, and staff, and we appreciate that so many members of our community are pushing us to be better.

We are doing everything we can to ensure a safe and inclusive environment on our campus. Nothing is more important at this time." 

The statement continued to say that the following actions are being taken: 

  • 12 Black faculty will be hired by the 2023 hiring cycle. 
  • The Anti-Black Racism Task Force is underway and will be getting direct input and feedback from the university community through the next term. A report will be issued by them and recommendations will be actively implemented in Fall 2021. 
  • More than $150,000 in grants will be available for Black students, faculty and staff to support changes to curriculum and teaching, as well as research, leadership and professional development applications. 

"In the longer term, the University will be launching a review of its equity, diversity and inclusion practices, procedures, and infrastructure. We are also building a race-based data collection process intended to support our ability to assess where we're making progress and where we need to work harder," the rest of the statement reads.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



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