READ: Amazing Letter From Dalhousie University Student Speaking Out Masuma Khan

“We as the student body have the right to elect a Vice President who treats us with respect, who exemplifies unity and compassion, not hatred and obscene language on topics that need attention and a respectful conversation. We are asking the union for a re-election of the VP of External Affairs.”

The controversy surrounding the horrible comments by Dalhousie University Vice-President External Masuma Khan which included attacks on so-called “white-fragility,” “white tears” and saying Canada was a genocidal nation, continues to grow. As a reminder, here’s part of what Khan said:

Yet, it seems there are students pushing back against Khan’s comments:

I recently received an email from a Dalhousie University student who identified themself as Mehak Saini. She shared her thoughts in a letter sent to the student union leadership. It’s worth sharing with all Canadians, as it represents a common-sense perspective that is desperately needed at Canada’s universities.

Read the full letter below:

October 25, 2017

Dalhousie Student Union,

6136 University Avenue,

Halifax, NS  B3H 4R2


Dear DSU Chair,

RE: Student Union’s role in protecting the rights of the student body

A leader is someone who can resist the various temptations and retaliations of the political arena. Somebody who is willing to listen to the needs of the everyday people and represent them faithfully. Somebody with the courage to stand up and say what must be told in the most respectful manner. Somebody willing to treat all who they represent with the utmost compassion. It’s not only their responsibility, but their absolute obligation to the rights and expressions of people from all races, colours, and religions. Our VP of External Affairs has failed to embody her duties and responsibilities of the VP of External Affairs. In fact, she made no effort to show any sort of remorse towards a statement she made in the light of banning Canada Day celebrations at Dalhousie.

Our VP of External Affairs has blatantly insulted the entire race of white people after a white woman spoke out against her motion to ban Canada Day celebrations this year. Khan felt such a motion was necessary to protect the rights of Indigenous people.

The post, which has now been deleted, stated “…fuck you all #WhiteFragilityCanKissMyAss #YourWhiteTearsArentSacredThisLandIs”. As a brown immigrant, I was incredibly offended by her statement and by the motion, may my #BrownFragitilyKissYourAssToo? Or #AreMyBrownTearsNotSacred? Being an immigrant,  I found the ban on celebrating Canada day as a violation of the rights of students to celebrate the country that has provided them with a great life, an excellent education, world-class facilities, and their individualistic freedom of expression. One of five people in Canada is foreign-born and moved to Canada specifically for a search of a better life. Some of them have escaped genocidal political movements. Some are refugees who have escaped war-torn countries. According to our VP of External Affairs, instead of allowing all of us the right to celebrate the Canadian confederation, we must ban the celebrations of the national holiday. What about all of those who fought in the war of 1812? What about those who escaped slavery? What about the proud Canadians who make up the student body? Are they not important to our student leader? Why was there not a vote put in place by the union to implement this holiday? Since when can there be decision made by the union on behalf of the 18,000 students they represent without the consultation of these students? Especially when the student body did not elect the VPEA and she was elected in the position by default.

Not only did she disrespect the student body by suggesting an anti-Canadian motion, but also she then attacked an entire race of students by implying that all white people are fragile in nature. Including people like Bernie Sanders or Susan Brownell Anthony, the same people that broke the law to fight for the rights of oppressed groups. Yes, they were white but not white supremacist or the KKK or the Nazis.  The term “white fragility,” was coined by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a multicultural education professor at Westfield State University describing it as, “-a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves” The assertion here is idiotic; the notion that individual defensiveness on the topic of generalizing an entire race is “fragility” is not entirely accurate, it seems more of an example of “narcissism”, that, a result of the white racial insulation ubiquitous in the dominant culture. There is an over-the-top ideology that is being spread currently at our university that believes race is a social construct to using ethnic identity as a bullet to shame people for their whiteness. Instead of embracing the similarities and ignoring the difference, the regressive VP of External Affairs has taken any rejection of her narrative to attack racism with the racism of her own. She has tried to redefine the term to excuse her behavior and use words such as white fragility to mock people that are white. The people not in her support are not racist but merely calling out the hypocrisy. Today she mocked the majority of the student body; tomorrow, it might be the minority and then someone else. I am a Brown woman who is calling out racism from another brown woman, am I a racist? I felt offended by her statement; not because of my personal relationship with people of the color white, but merely because this was division at its finest. Freedom of speech must be exercised; I am a true believer in that until/unless you’re an individual with a title that allow you privilege and power. You have the power and privileged to educate others, you are an influencer, you are a leader. You are not allowed to support one group by targeting another- you’re exercising the exact position you’re standing against “power struggle and discrimination.”  

I want a leader who embodies the entire student body and does not divide us with the color of our skin. I want a leader that discusses issues such as “Why is there a vacant seat at the union  for black representatives, or international students or the LGBQT community or Aboriginal students?”. “Why is there not enough involvement from the student body at union meetings.” “Why students did not have a working microwave at Killam?” My leader is one that will unify and make us stronger as Canadians and not divide and rule on us by silencing us through the power of the media. Racism is real, it’s real in every ethnicity. Our VP of External Affairs has made many comments in her personal life targeting white people and insulting them, these comments in her post were not just “one and done.” Her comments reflected how she truly feels against a whole race of people. There needs to be a tone of respect and unity that needs to be utilized, especially when in the position of power and privilege. People in power have the moral responsibility to uphold respect and standards in conversations, not abuse it and then claim free speech as a way to address real issues. Just like I would be unhappy with a white person demeaning an entire race, I would be just as unhappy with a person of my own color demeaning an entire race of people. I would not have been this angry had our VP used Neo-Nazis, White Supremacy or the KKK in her addressing racism, but to insult an entire body of race that way is not only unacceptable but also highly dangerous. Dalhousie prides itself on equality and inclusion, however it’s not inclusion when my white and multicultural friends feel intimidated by a leader who blatantly calls out on an entire race. To say Canada has committed genocide for 400 years is yet another generalized statement made by our student leader. I am a proud Canadian who believes Canada to be one of the world’s most liberal states, am I also guilty of committing genocide or supporting it?

It clearly states in the Student Union bylaw equity policy that “…we should neither condone nor tolerate behaviour that undermines the dignity of any individual or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Remarks, including jokes or innuendos, that are based on racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, or transphobic sentiments Offensive comments and/or actions which demean, humiliate or threaten an individual or group…”

Members of the union have failed to comply with their own by-laws by using profanity on their personal facebook accounts, entirely disregarding that students at Dalhousie incessantly friend executives regularly on their social media. She made statements to the press demeaning the white student body and generalizing that Dalhousie supports white supremacy.

We, the student body at Dalhousie University, do not accept her as our Vice President External Affairs. She has the right to freedom of speech to speak on whatever she feels, however, we as the student body have the right to elect a Vice President who treats us with respect, who exemplifies unity and compassion, not hatred and obscene language on topics that need attention and a respectful conversation. We want a leader to fulfill her job as the VP of External affairs with keeping in mind that she represents a body made up of all races. We want a leader to enact on providing support to students with issues they are truly struggling with. We want unification of people from all colors, religion and ethnicity. We want every minority and majority to unify as Canadians and not be divided due to our color. We are asking the union for a re-election of the VP of External Affairs.

Spencer Fernando

Photos – Facebook