Views / Opinion

Dalhousie controversy only makes Masuma Khan's voice louder: Kabatay

The reactions of some fellow students and the university to the student union member's opposition to Canada 150 are white fragility in action.

Masuma Khan, academic and external vice president of the Dalhousie Student Union, came under fire for a now-deleted Facebook post in defence of a successful motion she drafted for the student’s union to boycott Canada Day celebrations on campus.

Zane Woodford / Metro Order this photo

Masuma Khan, academic and external vice president of the Dalhousie Student Union, came under fire for a now-deleted Facebook post in defence of a successful motion she drafted for the student’s union to boycott Canada Day celebrations on campus.

Whenever I hear or see the words “reverse racism” I automatically groan and roll my eyes at the ridiculous concept.

So when Dalhousie University student Masuma Khan was basically accused of such by a fellow student, my reaction was no different.

But as the controversy gains steam, I can no longer brush it off as ridiculous and unworthy of attention.

Khan, a vice-president of the Dalhousie Student Union, came under fire for a now-deleted Facebook post in defence of a successful motion she drafted for the student’s union to boycott Canada Day celebrations on campus.

After hearing backlash over the motion she wrote, in part, “White fragility can kiss my ass. Your white tears aren’t sacred, this land is.”

The controversy inspired graduate student Michael Smith to write an op-ed in the National Post this summer and lodge a formal complaint with the university, saying Khan discriminated against white people.

It also prompted calls for Khan’s impeachment. And now she is facing a disciplinary committee hearing after she rejected the university’s suggested informal resolution to the complaint: that she write a letter of reflection and take leadership training.

The reactions of some fellow students and the university are white fragility in action.

Khan is a Muslim woman. She told Vice News, “The people at the top don’t look like me and they have never experienced anything like what I’ve experienced. They will never know what that feels like.” 

It’s clear she is well versed in the treatment of Indigenous Peoples from history to current day and made the decision to bring awareness of that brutal legacy to Canada 150 instead of celebrating it.

But apparently Khan can’t voice her own truth from her own experiences, because it will hurt people who have never experienced what she has. Namely, white people.

​"I'm not apologetic for voicing my opinion and using free speech to tell my support systems on my own social media how I feel," Khan said in an interview with CBC.

"There's a lot of folks that feel that racism doesn't exist anymore, but I think I'm here to be frank and say, 'Hey, that's not reality.'"

And the university attempts to silence her by putting her through this ordeal over a Facebook post that really wasn’t offensive, to me at least, other than maybe its use of the f-word.

But it’s unsurprising to me that she is being treated this way. It seems there is a higher standard for Khan, who is calling out how Canada has wronged Indigenous Peoples, than people who perpetuate harm by seeking to silence voices that point it out.

As the story unfolds, Dalhousie law faculty and civil liberties organizations have spoken out in support of Khan’s right to free speech.

So there is one bright side: in the university’s attempt to silence Khan they made her voice even louder, heard by many across the country.

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