News / Calgary

U of C student says racist sentiment in 'Okay to be white' not subtle

Calgary student group has taken leadership in repainting The Rocks when they don hateful sentiments

The Women's Studies and Feminist Club at the University of Calgary has been keeping paint on hand to cover up hateful messages on the rock, which can be painted by anyone.

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The Women's Studies and Feminist Club at the University of Calgary has been keeping paint on hand to cover up hateful messages on the rock, which can be painted by anyone.

When you ask Brandy Barter about her experience on campus at the University of Calgary, she has nice things to say.

She just started studying at the U of C and has enjoyed the open dialogue there. But after hearing that someone postered the school with posters saying "It's okay to be white" she's sad to say it doesn't surprise her as an LGBTQ, racialized, person of colour and an indigenous person from Puerto Rico. ​

"This is my life, this is reality, I'm constantly being told that I'm not valued enough, I'm not good enough," Barter said. "Over time, unfortunately, it just becomes a norm."

She didn't come face to face with the rock, or the posters around campus, but she said it's messed up that the posters and sentiments behind them aren't getting more attention.

"It's really unsettling when I'm talking about how I love being in a place where people all around me are wanting to learn and get more out of life and make sense of things, that the level of thinking isn't more critical," Barter said.

"It just shows racism is still real and alive, messages like that contain those subtleties – but they're not so subtle when you're the person affected by them."

Although the signs didn't go unnoticed, their looming and nagging presence on campus wasn't something that was called out as racist by the school – like U of A statements directly from President David Turpin.

Barter said she wishes leaders in society would utilize their privilege and power to stand up against these issues and create more critical discourse rather than being dismissive.

But in the student ranks, especially people of colour on campus, the block letters on white paper were a chilling reminder: there are people at the U of C who feel threatened by a progressive push for equality.

A group of strapped students, stretched thin between their scholarly duties and jobs, sprung into action on Monday, painting the rock's offending face with purple and bold letters that read "Be Kind."

The group that supplied the paint, the Women's Studies and Feminist Club, are becoming versed in covering up hateful art at the U of C's rocks. In September, members of the club painted over a Confederate flag on the campus boulder.

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