This week I’m thinking again about freedom of speech – and more specifically, who is really afforded this right and who is not?
It’s prompted by disciplinary action taken against Masuma Khan by Dalhousie University (now retracted). Ms Khan posted a Facebook comment in response to reactions to her motion to boycott Canada150 celebrations in consideration of Indigenous Peoples and the history/legacy of colonization.In her post, she used the term White Fragility – which, it would seem, white people didn’t like.
No one likes to be called out. And it shouldn’t be new to many of us that people in power – dominant groups – like this even less, particularly when done by those in non-dominant groups. So the backlash isn’t that surprising. But what I wonder about is the reaction to her post, and not the post that caused it – as Shree Paradkar points out.
Here again is an example of who is under the spotlight and who remains hidden and protected in the shadows. Why is it that Masuma Khan’s post was scrutinized and not the fierce reactions of the Conservative Party to her motion? Why aren’t we looking at the impact of those reactions on Indigenous People? What about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways Canada150 (and other acts of omission and commission) demeans Indigenous People, culture and history?
Who is talking about that? Oh wait, Ms Khan was… and was promptly disciplined by her university, asked to take a training course on coalition building and write a reflective essay.
What about the people who responded vehemently to her motion? What about their coalition building skills in the face of their seeming lack of understanding about the legacy of colonization and the impact of Canada150 celebrations on Indigenous people? And…if Masuma Khan’s sentiments had come from someone who is white…would they have faced the same swift reaction by the administration?
Free speech isn’t free for everyone. For some people, it comes at a price.
Take a look around and notice for whom that price exists and for whom it doesn’t.