'Everyone was staring; not good looks, but bad looks': How a Black U of S student battles 'silent racism' on campus
SASKATOON -- This story is part of The Dialogue, a CTV News Saskatoon series where people of colour share their real, raw experiences with racism.
Packing her bags for Canada three years ago, Nzovwa Lungu envisioned new adventures, friends and a better education.
But when Lungu walked into her first class at the University of Saskatchewan, her excitement turned sour. She had her first experience with racism.
“My very very first experience was a silent form of racism, which not many people talk about,” Lungu, from Zambia, says.
“I walked into my class and everyone was staring. Not good looks, but bad looks of, ‘Where is she going to sit? I hope she doesn’t sit next to me.’”
Silent racism, or covert racism, is subtle. Lungu says it’s often subconscious, passive and can be done without people realizing.
She says she’s experienced silent racism in group projects, where classmates have overlooked her ideas.
“People not accepting you because they don’t think that you’re worth it. Or they don’t think you know what you’re talking about,” the third-year animal bioscience student says.
“I want to be friends with everyone. I am open to meeting anyone, but why are people not open to knowing who I am before they see my colour?”
Lungu says silent racism is embedded into Canadian culture; she’s witnessed it in her African friends’ resumes.
“Multiple people change their names on their resumes just to get a job. So instead of having their native, African names, they’re going to have a completely different name just to sound more professional or qualified,” she says.
Lungu says it’s important for people to take racial biases to heart.
"Take it seriously. When a person of colour tells you about an experience they’ve had, do not deny it or try and defend another person because you’ve never experienced that,” she says.
“So make sure you’re open to everyone and anyone because you don’t know what people are going through."