Volume 96, Issue 69
Friday, January 31, 2003

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Cultural smorgasbord misses the point

Re: "Canada's multicultural smorgasbord," Jan. 23

To the Editor:

Last week's Campus & Culture weekly review had numerous flaws. First, the moderators did not include anyone that would fit the mould of an Afro-Canadian, or someone that could be easily identified as "black." Anytime the words "ethnicity, nationality or culture" are spoken, everyone seems to think of blacks, regardless of their origin.

In addition to this, there were a few statements, specifically those made by Catherine Clune-Taylor, that I found very insulting. When the discussion turned to the topic of cultural clubs, she states, "If a bunch of white kids did it, [created a White Students' Association] they would be ostracized." Maybe, but not because it would be a wrong thing to do, but because of the negative stigma associated with whites in large gatherings (KKK, Nazis, Full House, etc.). If there is no problem having a Black Students' Association (BSA) on campus, no problems should arise with there being a White Students' Association. The fear is in the stereotypes.

The second flaw in Catherine's arguments is found in her naming the Caribbean Students' Organization (CSO) and BSA as examples of clubs that may further segregation. Catherine is, in my opinion, implying that her being Bahamian gives her the obligation or "right" to join these clubs. The reason why it seems as though cultural clubs segregate themselves is that the clubs are dominated by students who are already part of these groups.

This makes sense, for the main purposes of a cultural club should be to allow students to experience a given culture. Is the [Chinese Students' Association] predominantly Chinese? Of course. This does not mean that students who are not born into a specific group are not allowed to join these clubs.

In fact, when someone who "does not belong" shows up at a cultural or special-interest group gathering, it is extremely encouraging. When, for example, a white student attends a BSA function, it shows that someone outside of the usual group cares about what blacks have to offer.

Joining a cultural club promotes segregation in the same way that enrolling in a French class promotes not speaking English. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the charters of BSA or CSO that require members to "close themselves off" from other groups.

Why do you think that Queer Western Ontario participated in Pride Week? To create awareness, and to peak the interest of those who are NOT "natural" members of the group. Sadly, as is the case in nearly all cultural clubs, barely anyone that does not "fit the mould" of the group shows any interest.

I would like to ask Catherine three final questions: Have you ever attended a BSA or CSO function? Do you have any knowledge of the mission statements of either of these clubs? Did you make your statements from a standpoint that is as ludicrous as your words themselves?

Philip White
Black Students' Association Secretary

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