U of M Aboriginal community outraged by racist classified ad

Aboriginal students at the University of Manitoba are outraged over an online classified ad offering free “extraction” and “relocation” of Aboriginal youth from within city limits to reserves or areas of the city with high Aboriginal populations.

The ad, titled “FREE: Native extraction service,” was posted on the free classified ads website UsedWinnipeg.com, but was removed in less than 24 hours.

Eric Funk, an aboriginal student within the faculty of science, said that he frequents the site UsedWinnipeg.com.

“I looked at it and I thought it was maybe a Native-run business [but] as I came to read it over, I could see it was a blatant racist ad targeting youth and degrading them as unwanted,” said Funk.

“It never ceases to amaze me how much stupidity exists out there. To attack our youth like that — it’s hurtful and disgusting.”

“The words ‘native extraction’ [sounds] like a extermination company [with] native youths being pests in so-called neighbourhoods. It’s just a blatant act of racism. That’s all it was to me. I was so infuriated.”

The ad begins, “Have you ever had the experience of getting home, to find those pesky little buggers hanging outside your home, in the back alley or on the corner? Well, fear no more; with my service I will do a harmless relocation.” The ad continues along similar lines.

“I can’t believe that someone put that on a website. [ . . . ] I read it and [was] really shocked [with] the stuff that was stated,” said Tara Gosek, president of the U of M Aboriginal Students’ Association (UMASA).

“It just goes to show that racism is still there, and [that] more work is needed to tackle that — to show that we’re not that stereotypical dirty, poor Indian digging in garbage and that we’re [not] all drunk and alcoholic.”

Kerry Spence, an aboriginal student in the faculty of human ecology said, “ I can’t believe there is still racism out there like that today. It happens all the time.”

“I think, in a blunt way, why won’t people get used to Aboriginals populating the country? [ . . . ] We’re going to be making 25 per cent of the population in the next 10 years. [. . . ] There are a lot of employers seeking Aboriginals,” she said.

Gosek said the image the ad portrays of Aboriginal youth goes against her recent experience in Vancouver, where she was a part of the Indigenous Youth Gathering, which included 300 Aboriginal youth who performed in the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

“It goes against my experience out in Vancouver. There were three hundred Aboriginal youth and it was a wonderful experience. [ . . . The ad] is the opposite of aboriginal youth. That’s not how it is,” said Gosek.

Ryan Bruyere, UMASA coordinator said the language used in the ad ties it to previous “extraction[s]” of Aboriginals.

“The last time they tried to extract the Natives, [it] was the whole residential schools episode in Canadian in history [ . . . ] so when they mention that word “extraction,” it’s not just an emotional attack. It’s also a political attack as well. It hits home that there is actually a segment of the population that wishes we weren’t in existence,” said Bruyere.

Gosek said the ad could be especially hurtful for those who have already experienced racism.

“It makes you a little bit fearful, because you really don’t know who’s racist. It’s pretty subtle and kind of hidden, but it’s still there,” said Gosek.

Luticia Hill, general manager of the Used Everywhere, a network of free classifies sites, said that UsedWinnipeg.com has a set of terms of use that all users must adhere to, which includes, amongst other things, the ability to edit or delete content that is deemed obscene, illegal, immoral, sexually explicit, as well anything deemed not family-friendly.

“We have pretty explicit — as we call them — rules to being part of our online community,” said Hill.

She said the site has a three-part monitoring system including software that searches every ad posted for key words as well as live monitors on staff looking for terms of use violations. Hill said that users also have the ability to report ads they find offensive, which, if found to be so, will be pulled off the site.

“If it is deemed in conflict or in violation of the terms of use, it is pulled immediately. In most cases, that happens within 24 hours. In this case, it happened in a much shorter period than that.”

Hill said that ads are pulled off the site on a regular basis.

“We have in our terms of use a laundry list of things that are not allowed, including alcohol, tobacco, weapons, adult only items, drugs, recalled items, what have you, and I would say that almost every single thing on that list we get posted on a regular basis and we go through and pull them all the time. It’s the nature of it. It’s a public forum [ . . . ].”

“It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe that racial stereotypes are still implicated on First Nations,” said Funk.

“Canada’s suppose to be a haven of multiculturalism [ . . . ] so I’m just appalled with it. But I grew up to deal with [racism] and it doesn’t phase me [ . . . ]. I just tell my children and my friends’ children to [ . . ] just be proud of who you are because we’re here to stay.”

All four agreed that more awareness and education is necessary to break stereotypes of aboriginal peoples.

“I think we need to do more awareness and education on why a lot of the racists might use those stereotypes,” said Gosek. “More awareness [and] education brings more understanding and compassion.”

“If anything, [ . . . ] it gives us passion and more strength to further our causes and push to make things better.”