CBC Hamilton released an interview yesterday with the McMaster Students Union’s president, Siobhan Stewart. The story, entitled “McMaster’s first black woman student president opens up about Hamilton” has two major focuses: Stewart’s work in the community and the fact that she’s a woman of colour in power. The first angle was understandable, given the media outlet’s general interest in downtown Hamilton. The second was unenlightened.
First, there were unnecessary references to Stewart’s “brown eyes [that] twinkled behind her glasses” and to her “soothing, low voice.”
And then there were the questions.
What does being a woman of colour mean to you? Is it difficult to be a woman of colour in power? How do you think being a woman of colour plays a role in your job? Does it mean something to be a woman of colour in power with the MSU? Are people shocked by the fact that the MSU has a black woman president?
Kudos to Stewart for the way she handled it. “I got to the positions I got to regardless of being a woman or being a Black person or whatever identities you attach to me or I attach to myself,” she told the interviewer. Stewart was consistent in her stance that her presidency, as well as the leadership of other women or visible minorities, should not be remarkable because of her physical attributes.
Yes, our MSU president is a woman, and yes, she’s black. Maybe this is big news for CBC Hamilton. But here on campus, we’re past it. Siobhan got where she did on merit, and we’re prepared to evaluate that merit independently of her skin colour or gender. Cut the condescending congratulations.