International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Dear UFV community member,

As the crisis in Ukraine continues my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and the over 2.8 million of whom, as per the United Nations report, have fled the country since the Russian invasion. These refugees join the over 82.4 million forcibly displaced people across the world, further intensifying the global refugee crisis.

I am also thinking about the international students in Ukraine from African and South Asian countries who were also forced to flee but were left without much support and met with discrimination and systemic racism. It should give us all pause that it took the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees confirmation of reports of “non-Ukrainian” people having faced discrimination to deem credible these students’ stories and to finally quiet the attempts to discredit them.

I know that there are members of the UFV community who have family and personal connections in the region and are frightened and worried right now. I know that some of you have experienced war and forcible displacement first hand and this current crisis not only brings forth those harrowing memories, but also memories of a meeting with perhaps a different reaction and reception from the world than what you are seeing now. Some members of the UFV community are international students, and I know that as you have watched the events in Ukraine unfold from the international students’ perspective it may have caused you distress.

Many of you have shared with me your own experiences of systemic racism and how watching the double standards and some outright racism in the media reporting, showcases how racialized people, particularly Black people, have continued to be devalued globally in times of crisis. Especially in times of crisis.

We have seen the expeditious processes and procedures in various countries, including ours, to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, revealing what can be achieved when people and governments are motivated and guided by compassion. And yet we continue to see, across the globe, people from racialized communities in similar situations struggling still to be heard, seen, helped, and believed.

That a confirmation from the UN was required as credible proof in order to believe Black people is anti-Black. Anti-Blackness is global. Racism is global.

I encourage everyone to see the events happening globally through this inconvenient, but irrefutable truth. As academics, I encourage us all to address the racial biases that exist in the framing of the refugee discourse, experience, and policies across the world. As leaders and learners, and as members of an institution of higher learning in a region experiencing rapid change, within a sector impacted by seismic global changes, I want us to confront this truth at the local level as well. To apply your critical lens as you consume media and confront narratives that avoid inconvenient truths.

At UFV, we are all stewards of our collective vision for UFV to be a gathering place for learners and leaders. I believe it behooves each of us to action our commitment to building a community of ethical and engaged global citizens. This requires learning, unlearning, reflection, and action. We cannot redress historical injustices and aspire for peace without doing so.

Please remember that doing so now in no way undermines or diminishes any support for the Ukrainian people. Injustices do not compete with each other. Our solidarity with the victims of racism does not mean we sacrifice our solidarity with the Ukrainian peoples. But ignoring one injustice or choosing not to act, would be making an intentional choice to allow these systems of oppression to stand.