Subtle racism lurks in the hallways for foreign students

“Your life matters and we are all unique in our own ways.”

Thandi O’Grady
Kicker

Anan Adams, a student at the College of North Atlantic. She is a refugee from South Sudan.
Anan Adams is a student at the College of North Atlantic. She is a refugee from South Sudan. Thandi O’Grady/Kicker

For a lot of students their biggest worry about school is getting bad grades, but for some it is being discriminated against for their race.

In 2017, Memorial University’s Student Union launched a campaign against racism after racist posters were found around the campus.

Three years later, according to some students, things haven’t really changed

Laughter Afolabi arrived in St. John’s from Nigeria in 2017 to study engineering at Memorial University.

When Afolabi arrived, she felt a sense of segregation from her white classmates. To this day she says the feeling has not gone away.

“I feel they are just afraid of saying the wrong thing,” she said. “Like, they are not fully comfortable. They don’t know how to act simply because I am black.”

Nita Badaiki is also from Nigeria and currently attends Memorial University. She began her political science degree in 2019. She says she has yet to encounter an overt racist experience at the university. However, she says she experiences subtle racism more than often not.

“It comes in a very subtle way but when you think about it later on you’re like, ‘that shouldn’t have happened,’” Badaiki said.

“Black is black; white is white,” said Adams. “Your life matters and are all unique in our own ways.”

The College of North Atlantic is another post-secondary school in St. John’s that has seen a rise in the attendance of international students.

Anan Adams moved to St. John’s with her family at the tender age of 10. They were refugees from South Sudan. The first-year college student says her racist encounters have mostly been experienced in her workplace and high school, but not so much at the college.

“On the first day I felt uncomfortable but then I’m just like, there is no reason I should feel uncomfortable. I see a lot of diversity here,” she said.

Adams does believe the college should create clubs and associations to help international students feel like they are part of a community. The presence of these clubs will also create a safe space, she says, for people of colour to come forward about racism they might experience.

“Black is black; white is white,” said Adams. “Your life matters and we are all unique in our own ways.”

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