West African drum beats permeated the IGNITE Student Centre that celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
But the event hosted by Humber College’s Centre for Human Rights Equity and Diversity also commemorated the 58th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, where 60 people died and 180 injured as they fought the racist Apartheid regime.
It was also a day where the history of Canada was examined to demonstrate the progress it has made and what still needs to be done to eliminate racial discrimination.
“We haven’t yet scratched the surface,” said Rai Reece, a Humber professor in the School of Social and Community Services.
Martin Ejidra, the event’s keynote speaker told the audience that in his study on online anti-back racism, he found “you can fill in any identity that you want to and you can see many forms of aggressive racism [online].”
A student at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Ejidra said his work began after an assignment for a class on Critical Race Theory.
He shed light on the rise of online hate and racism, and the lack of policing when it comes to eliminating it.
“The legal system is just a reflection of society, if we as a society are not talking about [online] racism, neither is the legal system,” he said.
Ejidra described the current modes used by many social media sites to eliminate racism as “reactionary and ineffective.”
“Users who have racist comments, videos or pictures reported or removed can continue to use their accounts,” he said.
When an account is suspended, users can open another account by using a different email address, he said.
Findings from StatsCan show that 90 per cent of Canadians are online and of those people, “71 per cent of Canadians reported using Facebook about twice a week,” Ejidra said.
He said society’s inability to actively tackle online racism offers those who spread racist or hateful agendas the false illusion that they are using their freedom of expression.
“A term like trolling is problematic because it does not label the person for what they are,” he said.
“If they are spreading racist banter, then they are racist,” he said.
The event also hosted spoken word poet Paulina O’Kieffe, who shared a piece on systemic racism.
“All lives do not matter if black lives do not matter, if Latin lives do not matter, if Indigenous lives do not matter,” O’Kieffe said.
“All lives do not matter if your life does not matter if you have some form of melanin,” the poet and mother said.
Reece told the crowd that “institutional support for this cause has to go beyond our institutional four walls.
“Allies know when to speak for, when not to speak and when to stand aside,” she said.