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This Student’s Facebook Post Calling Out White Fragility Created A Huge Shitstorm

It all started with a motion to support Indigenous people during Canada 150.

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This is Masuma Khan, a Dalhousie University student facing a daily barrage of threats, discrimination, and violent messages after standing in solidarity with Indigenous people in Halifax.

Meghan Tansey Whitton

It all started over the summer when Khan, who serves as a vice president on Dalhousie's Student Union, put forward a motion to stay clear of Canada 150 celebrations. The motion was drafted with input from Indigenous students and asked the union to refrain from celebrations, as well as not provide funding or space for them.

The motion was in solidarity with Indigenous people who see Canada 150 as a celebration of colonization, cultural genocide, and a broken relationship between the government and Indienous people that continues to exist. The motion passed, but the backlash was immediate.

"I was basically faced with some racist backlash on the council, with councillors saying if you don’t agree with Canada's legitimacy, you can revoke your right to the charter," Khan told BuzzFeed Canada.

Then, on June 30, the Nova Scotia Young Progressive Conservatives Facebook page posted a message criticizing the motion.

Facebook: permalink.php

The Dalhousie Student Union "should be helping instill pride in our country, not boycott our most significant national holiday," the post said.

Khan responded with her own Facebook post, reiterating her support for the motion and saying she stands by Indigenous students. The post, since deleted, used the hashtags #unlearn150, #whitefragilitycankissmyass and #yourwhitetearsarentsacredthislandis.

Soon after, Michael Smith, a Dalhousie student, filed a complaint with the university accusing Khan of "targeting white people."

Smith also penned a column published in the National Post, calling the Canada 150 ban "shameful."

nationalpost.com

"It is concerning that Khan fails to recognize that, as a student representative, she has a responsibility to represent and respect all students, even those who hold views that differ from her own," Smith wrote.

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Dalhousie's vice-provost of student affairs decided Khan had indeed violated the code of student conduct, the Globe and Mail reported.

Meghan Tansey Whitton / THE CANADIAN PRESS

In the decision, obtained by the Globe, the university said Khan's language and tone were "very concerning." She's now waiting for a hearing date so she can defend herself.

"This complaint should have never come through," she said. "How is it appropriate for the university to police how students feel, to police language, to tell me to take part in a training that’s going to teach me to talk about racism in a nicer way?"

Khan said the university is just legitimizing the idea of "reverse racism."

The university has also done nothing to address the constant harassment she now faces, she said.

Hey @Dalnews @DalPres - hoping for some guidance on how my client should respond "respectfully" to this corresponde… https://t.co/5CT4ZyKoSj

Her lawyer posted just one example of the many hateful, violent messages Khan now receives on a regular basis.

"It’s constant. They’re finding me on Facebook, they’re emailing my work and they’re calling my work phone," said Khan. The messages have included anti-Islam messages, body shaming, slut shaming, threats of violence, and encouragement for Khan to harm herself.

"The fact that I have to go through all this violence to prove that racism exists is ridiculous," she said.

"I won’t look at my phone then all of a sudden I have 10 message requests and all of them are, 'go back to the country you came from, you terrorist.'"

Khan was born and raised in Halifax.

But she's also received support from faculty at Dalhousie. Twenty people wrote a letter supporting Khan's right to political speech, and to speak critically about colonization.

Over 20 Dalhousie faculty members pen a letter to university administration in support of political expression and… https://t.co/7o0HFH1LG2

"Dalhousie will fail in its mission to become a more inclusive, respectful, and tolerant community if its policies are administered in a manner that silences political speech which addresses the type of issues outlined in this letter," they wrote."

As for Khan, she wants the conversation to return to where it all started.

"It’s about supporting the Indigenous people of the land and how to walk toward actual reconciliation."

UPDATE: The vice provost of students affairs announced Wednesday that the complaint has been withdrawn.

In a message shared on the Dalhousie website, vice provost Arig al Shaibah said the current code of conduct, as written, my be lacking and that the disciplinary process needs reexamining.

"Public conversations about this issue, particularly on social media, have become increasingly polarized, and in some instances, hateful, effectively undermining the very values of respect, inclusion and sense of safety we sought for our community at the outset," he added.

A team of students and faculty are now working on "facilitating a campus dialogue series."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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