Racism is prevalent, especially in university towns such as Wolfville, and while it is a known issue, it often remains ignored and unaddressed. Recently on Instagram, an article spread around about a racist experience that Sara Micheal, experienced from one of her former roommates that left her with scars on her neck after being assaulted. Besides the article, Sara also took to social media about the discrimination and dismissal she received from the police officer, with the last name Munro, when she reported it, as well as Wendy Donavan, the Mayor of Wolfville. This was not Sara’s first time as a victim from racism, and she said that this also isn’t the first time that she’s seen racism be dismissed in Wolfville. Because of the public attention that has been brought toward this story, I was able to have a conversation with Sara about what happened to her and how racism is prevalent in places like Wolfville and Acadia University.
So I just wanted to start off by asking you how it felt to receive that dismissal from the town.
“Yeah, so… I wasn’t really surprised at the town’s reaction, that’s kind of why I didn’t immediately go to the police, and that is why I initially got this girl’s picture and name and got my side of the story out first – because I knew that the police were not going to go out of their way to fix it. I mean they watched the Confederate flag fly for months and months right in the middle of town.
So basically what happened to me is that this girl tried to assault me. I defended myself and she left these scars. She went to the police, but she didn’t mention the fact that she tried to assault me. I think she didn’t realize that when she tried to grab me by the neck, she left scratch marks. Maybe she was too drunk to realize that, but she did. She didn’t mention the fact that she grabbed me first or the racist comments. A lot of information was out of context. I knew she was going to go to the police and say that I randomly attacked her.
It all started because I asked her to please keep it a little more quiet since it was 2:00AM on a Saturday. This girl, was going off on me, saying she could do whatever she wanted and that if I didn’t like it that I could move out. She was kind of just talking to me like I wasn’t even a person. But her friend didn’t step in until I retaliated. So to me, it seems very odd that that was the time that the roommate decided to step in. The roommate tried to make excuses for her, saying that I shouldn’t have pushed her. And she said, which sounds like a joke and has nothing to do with the situation at hand, “But I’ve been with three black guys before” and I responded with “What does that have to do with anything here?” Like your friend is racist and the roommate said she usually doesn’t say things like this which again is most probably a lie because there’s a reason for why she feels so comfortable saying things like that.
It’s just been very exhausting because not only did my friend and I have to deal with that cop, but I had to do my own investigation because the detective was concentrating on getting interviews from her and her friends who are the other roommates in the house. They obviously took her side. I had to find out where her old roommate was since I heard that this is not the first time she put her hands on someone, and I had to go look for them. I found them and apparently, I’m the fourth person for this to happen to.
They immediately took her side. Immediately. Didn’t even bother to run a check on her or like trying to even validate if what I was saying was true even though I have scars from her trying to grab me. All that stood out to them was the fact that I had the audacity as a black person to defend myself.
The police officer was immediately dismissive. He said that I was just playing the victim, and he was talking to me and my friend as if being African and Black meant that we didn’t understand the law. He was trying to make it seem as if I had no right to defend myself. He was just talking to us like we were too stupid to understand basic laws. At one point I turned to my friend and I said, “I’m so sick of this town”, and he said that if we didn’t like how we run things here than you’re welcome to leave and to me that’s sort of funny – like a dog whistle for us to just get out of town, like we are not wanted here.
When I told him that this town was racist, he turned to me and said “we are not racist”. He asked…not even asked, but demanded that we take it back, like an order. He was just yelling at us. At one point he claimed he had a black daughter, which I don’t think he even has, and just wanted to use that as a way to justify this.
The mayor consistently tried to gaslight me into thinking that he was not a real police officer. I called her and her argument was that because it was a Sunday, there was no way that the police station could be open and that it didn’t make any sense for anyone to even be opening the door. And I replied with, “yeah I know”, but there was a police officer there and we decided to give it a shot anyways. I told her that Wolfville is racist and inhospitable, not only in my experience but also in my friends and others’. She wrote back to me that it was unfair of me to smear an innocent organization.
Sara says that in situations like this, she wants to point out that this is a reality for black people, and that this is unfortunately normal. Sara and I talked about the white privilege that was evident in Wolfville and how this applies to what happened to her: “I don’t have any criminal past, no criminal charges, I have never stolen anything from a store and none of that matters. All that matters for this girl is that she is a white girl of upper class. Like I mentioned, she had the police called on her before and I am not the only person that has complained about her and there still hasn’t been anything done. To describe the amount of privilege to have as a white person – you can be a white woman and seen as innocent and pure and you can get away with a lot of horrible things. This idea has been pushed through centuries of colonization, centuries of us having to watch movies and the media, and having to watch white people being put on a pedestal.”
Sara also addresses how this situation will close many doors for her, unlike her attacker. “Here’s this white woman who has put her hands on me and is comfortable with saying racist slurs, but having a history of this with multiple other people hasn’t done anything to her. But being in the media already so far with this, it’s going to close so many doors for me in the future. It protects me and perhaps it allows me to be in an environment in the future where I’m going to be respected as a human being, but at the same time it definitely will close doors for me.”
When it comes to Acadia University, Sara believes that Acadia isn’t advertising in an honest way when it comes to their progressiveness in recruiting students, “Acadia and Wolfville have been working actively at creating this false image of equality and progressiveness when it comes to Wolfville as a way to attract a lot of international students”. She focuses on how this can create a less safe environment for people of color, especially when the racism in Wolfville isn’t addressed: “[Acadia] looks at places like Bermuda and the Bahamas which are places that have a lot of people of color, have a lot of black people, and they actively advertise this image of safety and progressiveness when it’s not safe. And I’m not the only black person who has gone through this aggression”.
Another concern Sara has is for future international students who are of color that may choose Acadia, “International students are treated differently. People of color in general are treated in a completely different way. Like I’m treated like a second class citizen every day. But it’s very dangerous to have all these like international students come here as kids, as minors”. She says. “They’re away from a home that can help them and they’re leaving those support systems. They trust an image of Acadia that is fabricated, which is a very predatory and cruel thing to do.”
What other experiences have you had in Wolfville?
“I’ve had multiple jobs where people would question if I could speak English or where people would question if I could read, write, and speak English. Or people would talk down to me and make comments when it came to me being African. Something I’ve noticed in schools too is dealing with the professors, questioning if I actually wrote my own essay or if I cheated or plagiarized. Just things like having friends being told by their professors to simply go back home if things are too hard here, and just very inappropriate comments without really a shred of concern.
Before I came here I did some research on the school and found that there were no articles or social media posts about anything bad about Acadia. I figured that it’s such a small town, like what bad things can happen here? It’s because Wolfville actively works at hiding these things and silencing these people. It looks like they put effort in when they act like they care by posting things about black history or native history or native issues, or racism against people of color in general.
Another problem is that Wolfville insists on committing to performative acts of solidarity, which a lot of people of color have been complaining about for years. They post about Black History Month, but fail to address any of the ways the town has failed black people.”
After what you have said, do you feel like that if you didn’t say something, that it would’ve been swept under the rug? Do you think it would’ve been dismissed completely?
“Yeah, I think they would’ve completely dismissed it. I think they just would have gone ahead and acted like it wasn’t a problem. I think they would’ve just dismissed it because it hurts Acadia’s pocket, it hurts Wolfville’s pockets. If they have this reputation for being racist, they’re not going to have as many international students come in. Personally, if I read what I said in that article, I would never have come here.”
In your latest Instagram post, you said that you wanted to do sort of like a documentary in collaboration with other people of color and their experiences as well. What does that mean to you and for those other people who want to be really honest about Acadia and Wolfville?
“I want people of color to have an informed choice. I think it’s a good start to be responding to racism ingrained into this town. It’s a good start to be putting out information and giving the choice to students of color or professionals of color. I wish I had this sort of informed choice. I wish I would have known what it was like here. I honestly think it should be illegal for universities and places like Wolfville to do things like this, I think it’s dangerously predatory and will lead to even more violent situations like this.
That’s all we want to do. We want to give people what our experience was here: how disrespectful, how hostile… Acadia puts out these happy advertisements which aren’t like mine or a lot of other people of color’s experiences.”
Do you think there’s any solutions that Wolfville can take from people of color to help them? Not just in support of them, but to also help amplify their voice and create a safer and more inclusive environment?
“Acadia should start actually providing support and take complaints seriously instead of just dismissing them. Acadia should actually have consequences for people’s actions.”
You briefly mentioned it before, but how does it sort of impact your life? Or what does it mean to you with how normal racial slurs are? Especially in a college town like this?
“I think it creates a situation like my situation. I mean because when it’s normalized to be screaming out these words and it emboldens people to be more comfortable with this behavior. It’s like a safe space is created for them to be racist and do even worse things.”
Do you think that there should be more action when it comes to the police to create a safer environment for people of color to be able to report situations like this without fear? Like do you feel like this is a big issue right now where people of color don’t feel comfortable going to the police?
“I definitely think so. We don’t really feel like there’s much more support from police. We don’t really feel comfortable with a system that was created for white people. I don’t really see the point of me going to the police for any help because I know that I’m not going to get any. “
I just have one last question: how do you think that students at Acadia or the people in Wolfville can help amplify your voice or other people of color’s voice who go through these racist experiences?
“I think that doing things like sharing our posts helps, but it doesn’t have to be through just social media. Continuing the conversation and sharing the discussion, for me that really helped. I think doing things like showing up by offering support and like actually engaging when you see racist things happening. I find it disturbing when there are people who scream racial slurs out in public and no one stops it.
I think that by sitting there and not saying anything, or even worse, justifying things like my experience are making it much worse. It’s about acknowledging these problems. It’s not going to stop until these things are at least discussed.”
Racism is still an ongoing issue, especially in university towns such as Wolfville where it’s been normalized and has allowed white people to engage in racist behavior.