Ari Blaff: Ryerson University name change is a sign of the week times

The unveiling of Toronto Metropolitan University last week coincides with a broader cultural shift taking place throughout North America

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Canada’s woke chickens came home to roost last week, when Ryerson University announced its newly sanitized name: Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). Even for the largely left-wing denizens of the school, the name was off-putting. Fittingly, one student noted that it sounded “like a bus stop.”

Fortunately, I left before the rot had taken hold completely. The mob that destroys statues, vandalizes property and intimidates administrators continues to sit idly by as the school has become a training ground for anti-Semites. Thankfully, my two years at Ryerson’s relatively apolitical business school were insulated from much of the hate emanating from the social science and humanities departments.

In 2017, the Ryerson Students’ Union’s senior leadership initiated a walkout during a motion to introduce a Holocaust Education Week initiative. “Next person in line is a zionist … i have her on facebook and she’s really problematic,” was just one of the many messages this enlightened body of representatives texted one another when a Jewish student was scheduled to speak.

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That same year, a teaching assistant was fired for saying that Jews are “filth,” and the president of the school’s Orphan Sponsorship Program came under fire for tweeting, “My heart burns with hatred for the scums of Israel.”

The unveiling of TMU last week coincided with a broader cultural shift taking place throughout North America, which began with George Floyd’s death in 2020. The widely touted “racial reckoning” was upon us and the dogs of wokeness were sicked on everything from Uncle Ben’s rice , to Aunt Jemima Syrup and the dastardly Eggy the Ram, Ryerson’s beloved mascot.

Editorials applauding such moves cared little for the business sense of changing the names of these iconic brands. Aunt Jemima’s real-life niece wasn’t so happy about the company’s decision to remove her aunt’s likeness from the logo. “Erasing my Aunt Lillian Richard would erase a part of history,” Vera Harris noted. “All of the people in my family are happy and proud of Aunt Lillian and what she accomplished.” oops

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The hunt for racism, both real and imagined, was on. In the continued bid to expunge any reference to Indigenous sports mascots, the National Football League and Major League Baseball raced to cover their backsides. The Washington Redskins were sanitized into the Commanders, despite 90 percent of Native-Americans saying they were not offended by the name, according to a 2016 poll conducted for the Washington Post, and the Cleveland Indians became the Guardians.

The last two years have been nothing short of a full-blown moral panic. White liberals raced dutifully to bookstores to buy themselves (and their kids) books on critical race theory, while corporations rushed to keep pace by mandating diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

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From this mindset stems the professionally humorless, in which minutia is parsed for the crumbs of racism. “Every time the Cleveland Indians played the Detroit Tigers, nearly five million Native Americans were put on a level playing field with an animal. If Native people are equal to animals, how will we be seen as equal to our fellow human beings in the courts, in Congress and on the streets?” wrote activist Maria Givens in Vox last year. yikes Similarly, how could anyone possibly take someone from Texas seriously given the Dallas Cowboys?

It is said that when America sneezes, Canada gets a cold. So, too, when American racial panic exploded, its reverberations were felt far beyond its borders. Jonathan Kay beautifully chronicled last year’s excessive cognitive madness in these pages. The highlight reel includes those decrying public parks as bigoted, a French school board in Ontario performing a “flame purification” ceremony (aka, a book burning) for children’s novels deemed racist and a district of Ontario’s high school teachers’ federation instituted a voting system allotted on the basis of skin colour. Need we really go on?

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This year has signaled no weakening of the winds of weekness. As the experiments conducted in Toronto, Cleveland and Washington show, little is accomplished from renaming treasured institutions. If the United States is any indication, the average Indigenous-Canadian likely hews towards moderation, knowing that debates over the names of institutions like Ryerson University and the Edmonton Eskimos do nothing to improve access to clean drinking water and quality education in First Nations communities.

The public’s attention has been squandered on Ryerson’s symbolic renaming, as real problems faced by Indigenous people go unaddressed. Nor will it offer an opportunity for Canadians to learn about historically important figures like Egerton Ryerson and debate their contribution, good and bad, to our country.

When people lose their jobs and livelihood for thinking outside the box, unimaginative names — like the Cleveland Guardians, Washington Commanders, Edmonton Elks and Ben’s Original rice — are the best we’ll do. TMU will be just another sanitized name — a relic of a time when anything that could possibly upset woke snowflakes was papered over and replaced with something that sounds more like a bus stop.

National Post

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