By living within the lie – that is, conforming to the system’s demands – we all confirm the system, fulfil the system, make the system, ARE the system. – Vaclav Havel
On December 11th, 2020, the Burnaby RCMP made a violent arrest of a Black Simon Fraser University alumnus on SFU’s Burnaby campus.
The RADIUS SFU team would like to express its support for the alumnus and acknowledge the distress and harm caused by the actions of SFU Security and the RCMP.
We had hoped for better. At RADIUS, we try to operate from a place of critical hope – that driving force of resistance – that thing that changes the world. We, too, are on a learning journey and don’t always get things right.
Critical hope holds the necessary tension between criticality and hope that remains committed to ideals of justice, reflexivity, and solidarity; critical hope is derived from asking:
What is the realistic appraisal of conditions—so that we can name what actually happened?
On Friday, December 11th, the realistic appraisal was not a learning opportunity, a mistake, or a we-need-to-do better rhetoric; what happened was due to racial profiling, systemic racism, and institutional racism, and ended in violence and harm against a Black SFU alumnus.
Is there a sense of personal and collective resilience—so that we can be accountable and stand in solidarity with those who have been wrongfully harmed?
On Friday, December 11th, the answer is No. The collective resilience was not for the victim but rather for those who hold power. The actions that took place reinforced trauma and harm to Black and Indigenous peoples. As a community, we must create a type of collective resilience where all those involved and in our institutions are ready to listen—ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn—willing to seek dramatically divergent perspectives and experiences —ready to upset habitual power and privilege structures—and ready to be held accountable.
What can we do better, and how can we begin to envision a better world—so that our hope can be realistic and grounded in justice?
We can imagine and delve into the “what ifs” from December 11th. Drawing inspiration from Luna Syenite’s Imagine public safety posters, we ask: What if things could be different? What if SFU Safety and Risk Services received more and improved anti-oppression and anti-racism training? What if their work was less about policing but more about community care? What if security agents knew more about the history of the over-policing endured by Black and Indigenous communities in Canada or had lived experiences of being Black and Indigenous? What if leaders were more comfortable stating concepts such as systemic racism? What if institutional leadership teams understood that the system in place pushes them to protect white comfort and privilege no matter what?
The above is critical hope – when we engage in both the critical analysis and the emotional, perhaps then, SFU could build better trust between Black and Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and community members. We all need to do better.
Leah Sanford, Véronik Campbell, and Bonnie Arthur
on behalf of the RADIUS Team