This week has been exhausting. As we battle an invisible foe, something sinister has arisen again. The ‘something’ is racism, and it is always present, a daily reality for many of us. A fever pitch has ignited an outcry heard around the world following a vile display; a tragedy best described as a loss of humanity. Racism is, and has always been, something we insist on sweeping under the carpet, keeping it the dark where it festers. Here in Canada, we stand proudly on the premise, “at least we aren’t as bad as the U.S.” In many ways, that’s true. We are, in general, more protective of human rights, and much of our federal infrastructure help us sidestep some catalysts to inequality. But are we better? Since when is not being as bad good enough? Because we seem to struggle with coming to a consensus that racism even exists. Until you admit you have a problem, you’re hard-pressed to fix it.
Our brand is one of looking the other way, using platitudes to ignore what is often happening right under our noses, and sometimes by our own hand. It’s part preservation, part ignorance, part performance, part cowardice. For many Indigenous and POCs, this is a more mentally taxing brand of racism because navigating it is like walking through a dark room. You cannot see the walls, though they are there, you can’t see where there are holes in the ground, though they are there, and you cannot see if you’re about to walk off the ledge, though it is there. Over a lifetime, it chips away at mental health, emotional well-being, confidence and light. It leaves a desolate climate for the hope that better days are possible.
It’s long past time for a change. When the swell quiets again, it will be the time for the actual work to begin. To give our children, all of our children, a future better than the present, we must start now. We ask you today to reject the notion a problem isn’t real because it does not affect you personally. Resist the urge to gaslight or play ‘devil’s advocate’ when a person tells you about their experiences. Reject the reflex that allows you to view someone as ‘other’ and label as not belonging in spaces you deem as yours. Expel the idea that to stand up for the rights of someone else, somehow weakens yours.
A commentary released this week described racism like air. The moment we are born, we gulp it in. It is around us, within us, built into the systems we all use, but do not enjoy the same level of access and protection. Empathy, self-awareness and reflection are the first steps. Action is the next, and it is an ongoing journey. It is relentless, sometimes uncomfortable, often thankless, lonely and fundamental if things are to ever change. No one left behind means we do not forge forward until we can all come along. So, take the first step today. It may be small, but the path will lead to a better place for all. We are already proud Canadians, we love our country and its people. You can love something and still agree that it could be better. Let’s make it so, together.
Watch and Listen
The Social: #ShareYourChair Edition
Heather McGhee TED Talk “Racism has a cost for Everyone”
Baratunde Thurston TED Talk “How to Deconstruct Racism, One Headline at a Time”
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