SSMU Statement Condemning Anti-Black Racism and Police Violence

SSMU Statement Condemning Anti-Black Racism and Police Violence

Content warning: anti-Black racism, murder, police violence. We encourage you to prioritise your mental and emotional wellbeing as you choose how you want to engage with this statement.


Dear SSMU Members,

No words can truly capture the grief and depth of emotion evoked by the murder of a Black person by a member of the police. Our thoughts are with our Black student community, as well as the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Régis Korchinski-Paquet, and the countless other Black people brutally murdered by police. As we invoke these names, we cannot forget those of Anthony Griffin, Bony Jean-Pierre, Pierre Coriolan, and Nicholas Gibbs, each a Black man killed senselessly by the Montreal police.

We acknowledge the work of the Black Students’ Network and their continued, long-standing efforts towards making this campus a safer and more accessible space for Black students. We look, with full support, to your leadership, and dedicate our resources to fighting anti-Black racism. To that end, we reproduce, with permission, their statement on anti-Black racism and police violence:

“The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult for the Black community at McGill, as many of us struggle with the overwhelming rage and indignation in the wake of anti-Black police murders in Canada and the US. Like everyone else, we have been caught up in the outburst of media attention on anti-Black violence. While this attention is beyond overdue, and has the potential to bring about transformative change, it has the corollary of provoking great distress among us. Our hearts break with anger, sorrow, and exasperation every day.

To our community, please put yourselves first. You have a right to be furious, to be exhausted, to withdraw from the news and social media. None of this is your fault. Prioritise yourselves, and surround yourselves with people who understand and validate your lived experience. And please, reach out to us on Facebook or at bsn@ssmu.ca if you have any needs that we can support you with.

To non-Black folks who have acted in solidarity with us, we welcome your outrage, and we state emphatically that the aggression of Amy Cooper and the police murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Yassin Mohamed, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and Régis Korchinski-Paquet are not unusual. Before these murders and in their wake, countless more Black people have been arrested, assaulted, and murdered by police. These are ordinary events that occur with impunity and not at random, for a simple reason: anti-Black violence is a functional mandate of the police in our society. Impoverishment, imprisonment, and terrorism against Black communities are functionally embedded within the White social structure.

What is unusual about this situation is the uptake from non-Black people in the face of anti-Black violence, as a result of which a step forward has been taken to confront the demands of anti-racism. We will take a step further. Anti-racism is not simply condemning extreme acts of White supremacy. It is not simply calling out the racist inflections of actions and behaviours. Anti-racism is the acknowledgement that White supremacy permeates all our social structures, that our social structures racialise all social problems, and that it is incumbent upon everyone to resist the stability of this society with the same visceral outrage as the murder of George Floyd – because George Floyd is murdered, impoverished, and incarcerated every day. Ultimately, what is at stake in anti-racism is the subversion of an entire social order.

As Black folks, we are prepared to do what needs to be done, and to non-Black folks, we remind you: anything we achieve without you, will be far less than what we achieve with you.

In solidarity,

The Black Students’ Network of McGill”

As SSMU executives, we recognise that our institution is a hostile and inaccessible environment for Black students in many ways. For those of us complicit in the system of anti-Blackness and white supremacy, it is our collective responsibility to reflect proactively on the impacts of our actions, words, and behaviours, and to dismantle the barriers that exist within the SSMU. As we engage in this process, we encourage non-Black students in our community to do the same.

Further, we want to recognise the profoundly racist legacy of McGill University, acknowledged by all but its administrators. In Principal Fortier’s recent statement on racism and injustice, she mentions imagining a “more acute vision of our collective humanity.” A university named after a slaveowner and colonial elite, that fails to label anti-Black police violence for what it is, fundamentally defies that vision. As McGill enters its bicentenary, the moment calls for a renewed effort to prioritise and amplify the voices of Black and marginalised peoples. The purpose of knowledge is action, and the McGill administration has failed to act with the boldness and conviction that alone can combat racism and injustice.

This year, the SSMU will be supporting the Black Students’ Network to challenge the university to empower its Black community, including by pushing for the creation of a Black Studies academic department – not simply a program – and by mobilising for substantive changes to the McGill’s Policy on Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited By Law.

There are several ways you can help promote the fight against anti-Black police violence. Financial contributions to racial justice organisations are always needed, but there are many other means to stand in solidarity with Black people. You can find a non-exhaustive list of organizations to support, petitions to sign, and educational resources to consult in the document provided at the end of this statement. Thanks to SR for taking the time and effort to put this together.

Here is a collection of resources about how to help support the ongoing mobilization and activism in Montreal:

Here are some mental health resources that may help you during this time:

  • Keep.meSAFE, a free mental health service providing 24/7 access to licensed counsellors
  • Tel-Aide: 514-935-1101
  • Crisis Text Line: Text ‘CONNECT’ to 686-868
  • Suicide Action Montreal: 1-866-277-3553
  • Centre for Gender Advocacy Peer Support Line: 514-848-2424 x7880
  • Trans Lifeline: 877-330-6366
  • Interligne: 514-866-0103 (Toll-free/text messaging: 1-888-505-1010)
  • Project 10: 514-989-4585

Signed,

Jemark Earle / President | president@ssmu.ca
Brooklyn Frizzle / Vice-President (University Affairs) | ua@ssmu.ca
Ayo Ogunremi / Vice-President (External Affairs) | external@ssmu.ca
Gifford Marpole / Vice-President (Finance) | finance@ssmu.ca
Maheen Akter / Vice-President (Student Life) | studentlife@ssmu.ca

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