My name is Alicia Oeser (she/her), I have been the Director of The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) on the Vancouver campus since January 2020. I joined a beautiful, brilliant team at SVPRO, already engaged in anti-violence and anti-oppression work prior to my arrival. It is with their permission, I have written a statement about the ongoing and current events we are witnessing, on behalf of our team.
With my introduction, I hope to give you context for who I am, as author of this piece. I moved from sunny Los Angeles, but I also lived in Boston and Chicago for about a decade and a half. Which means, yes, I am an American. I am so thrilled to be here at UBC, in beautiful Vancouver and in Canada.
It has not been an easy few years in the United States for anyone who is not a straight, white, able-bodied, cisgender male. And that is not to suggest that things were great before 2016, but there is something particularly painful about this time in our history. Hate crimes of racialized violence and anti-2SLGBTQ violence are on a steep rise, not to mention the daily barrage of unmitigated micro (and macro) aggressions. White people are being forced to reckon with a racist present, no longer able to pretend it lives in our shameful past. And it’s about time, we are very late to the game and worse, regardless of our claimed allyship, we are complicit in our silence and unchecked privilege. I am new to Canada so I am new to learning the similar and distinct ways racism, homophobia, and misogyny play out here in my new home city, but I will begin by not denying that it does indeed exist.
The below statement is made from the territory that we occupy as part of the UBC Vancouver community. We recognize the privilege to be located on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh traditional, ancestral and unceded territories. We also recognize that this land was taken without consent. The impact of colonization, as with racism, continues to permeate our society, as evidenced by the anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, anti-Asian racism, xenophobia, and religious persecution experienced by people of color living in Canada.
We at the Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Office are angry. We have not just watched the events unfolding, we have lived them. In our anguish and sadness, we send our love to the families who have lost someone and to the communities around the globe facing unyielding violence at the hands of the state. Each of these incidents are examples of violence not only perpetrated, but sanctioned by the state, an intentional product of the white supremacy ingrained in its creation. The system is not broken, the system is working as intended- it is the system that is the problem. As you might imagine, at SVPRO we have much to say about the connection between white supremacy and the cis-hetero-patriarchy all of which conspire to allow for sexualized violence, but today our focus is to simply and unequivocally say that racism must end. It is not enough to care, this is a call to action.
At SVPRO we are committed to taking an active role in combating racism, within our office, our institution, and from society.
We will seek out conversations about race, privilege, and oppression. There is not a moment of our lives that is not touched by race which means we must be aware of the impact of racial privilege in everything we do, even when it seems unrelated. Not having to think about race is a privilege.
We will do the work. We recognize the labor, emotional and physical, that goes into teaching white people about race. Our White team members and team members of mixed ancestry are committed to finding ways to learn and support our Black and Indigenous colleagues by pursuing our own education. We will read, we will listen, we will watch, we will learn, and we will add our bodies and our voices to the movement to end racialized violence and racism in its entirety.
We understand the difference between intention and impact. We will not question the experiences of people of color, including when we are told we have caused harm with our words or actions. It is not okay for a person of privilege to seek to understand at the expense of a person of color. That person becomes responsible for educating the person (or people) with privilege as well as proving why what happened was harmful. It falls to those of us with privilege to believe and be accountable without questioning, regardless of our intent.
We will not allow ignorance to be an excuse for not speaking up against racism. We will speak up even if our privilege makes us feel uncomfortable doing so. Uncomfortable is not the same thing as unsafe and we will own how privilege accounts for both greater safety and greater discomfort. To deny it, we are complicit. At any given turn, those of us at SVPRO who find ourselves occupying a position of privilege commit to breaking our silence.
We will work closely with our partners on and off campus to create an internal assessment and review this semi-annually to maintain our accountability to each other and the community. Likewise, we want to hear from you about how we are doing. Whether it’s perception, our programs, our services, we will seek your input and provide safe ways for you to share this with us.
We will not stop with these commitments, this is just the beginning. At SVPRO we stipulate that all harm is connected and we will not see the end of sexual and gender-based violence if we do not simultaneously and relentlessly work to end all oppression. Anti-racist and decolonization work is our responsibility and we will continue to search for more and better ways to do this.
We are here for those in our UBC community who have experienced or been impacted by racialized and sexualized violence. We offer our love, support, and we share in your anger. Please contact us if you would like to connect further. More soon.