Scholars Strike! The Nation Reels!

Commentary, Education, Gerry Bowler

Keen observers of the English language will have noticed the appearance of a new acronym. From the lips of CBC announcers, the keyboards of woke reporters and the throats of protestors comes a two-syllable word that defines a collective of the oppressed: BIPOC, short for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. Just as Canadians have learned to speak of a herd of Yukon caribou, a school of Labrador cod, and a two-four of Labatt’s beer, we now have a BIPOC of victims.

I am a little skeptical of the usefulness of this term. Take, for example, the POC part of the acronym, People of Colour. Do any of us know people who have no colour? Are the majority of Canadians suddenly to be referred to as People Living with an Invisibility? Or have we, overnight, been turned into a population of trans-Canucks – transparent Canadians? There is clearly more work to be done here.

And what are we to make of this acronym as a descriptor of the downtrodden? It is interesting to note that despite the hellish conditions for minorities in this country with genocides on every hand, when scarcely a day goes by without a Royal Commission denouncing the systemic racism which infects Canadians even in the cradle, that our borders see a daily influx of the non-transparent asking to live among us. Nor, strangely do we see a migration of the Indigenous, fleeing the nightmare that is life in the land of the maple, seeking a better life abroad in a country that has never known racism, such as North Korea. Or Cuba. Or Venezuela.

But we historians take language as we find it, and this week we find the word BIPOC being uttered by the Provost and Vice-President, Academic  of an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. Now, I don’t know about you, but when a spokesbeing from the 54th-best university in Canada speaks, I’m going to listen. The Vice-President, Academic begins with a truism: she is opposed to racism against BIPOC. Who isn’t? But the Vice-President, Academic and her institution are willing to go further than this: she speaks of a Scholar Strike. Apparently across our fair Dominion, September 9 to 10 was given over to bringing attention to systemic racial injustice, a subject which apparently has been given insufficient notice in the news of late. Quite what that action is to be, remains unspecified but rest easy knowing that there is a President’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion working hard on it.

The notion of a Scholar’s Strike is an interesting one. If it follows the usual pattern of strikes, those participating will not be doing their usual work. So according to the logic of the Vice-President, Academic, not teaching, not researching, not passing on knowledge and skills to those who have come to learn will be a Good Thing. Far better to ignore the sonnets of Shakespeare, to down tools in the  search for a cure for MS, to refuse to instruct the youth of Calgary in computer engineering and instead flap lips for two days while ululating the latest conventional pities. Because that’s the way racism is ended.

Wouldn’t it be better for our nation if our scholars chose to highlight an injustice by, instead of posturing for two days on the taxpayers’ dime,  vowing to work harder? To research more deeply, teach more eloquently, and study longer? It’s crazy but it just might help.

Gerry Bowler is a Canadian historian and a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.