Volume 92, Issue 80

Thursday, February 18, 1999


Looking towards the future

Experiencing ignorance: a student tells of his time at Western

Experiencing ignorance: a student tells of his time at Western

The following is a personal account by Kevin Tait, a 1997 graduate of the film studies program, of his experience at Western.

I'm not going to preach. I am not going to list the many accomplishments of black people since the beginning of time. I am not going to quote Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr., nor am I going to complain about negative and biased depictions of minorities in the media. But I am going to tell you a story about myself, a young black male.

When I arrived at King's College in the fall of 1994, I faced what can only be termed a "culture shock." As a resident of Scarborough, Ontario, I was used to attending schools in communities which were very diverse. I was used to seeing brown faces and black faces and white faces all mixed together. At King's this was hardly the case – in all my classes at King's combined, there were maybe four or five black people. In one class, where there was one other black male, everyone assumed we were brothers.

I encountered one student who had only met one black person in his life and apparently he wasn't very well liked because all he did was "steal from other people." There were also others, who upon hearing I was born in Jamaica asked me if I could get them "some choice weed."

The biggest shock came in a conversation I had with two "friends." After meeting them during my first week of school, we became friends quickly. However, about seven or eight months into our friendship, they confided that when they first met me they thought I was some kind of "gangster or hoodlum." I was taken aback by their sentiments and could only ask them why they made these assumptions. They responded that their assumptions were based on my appearance.

Needless to say, their comments bothered me. I felt uncomfortable talking to them, because I didn't know what other assumptions or stereotypes they held. However, I did appreciate their honesty and the conversation was useful and constructive and it taught me two things.

It made me realize just how much people need to learn about one another. It also demonstrated the importance of Black History Month and other cultural and heritage events. Not because everyone in the world needs to know all the chronological events in the life of Marcus Garvey, but because of all the misconceptions my friends had regarding me and by extension, black people as a whole.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999