Black and Indigenous people of colour's (BIPOC) lives matter. They matter, not just because they are just as human, but because they have been systemically disadvantaged and discriminated against for hundreds of years.
It is time for us to do the work. The BIPOC communities have been fighting for long enough. Change starts from within. As white citizens we need to recognize, learn about and work to change the systemic discriminations that are built into who we are and what our country has become. It is NOT enough to be a person who is "not racist". We must work to become informed people who actively engage in the discussion, make personal changes and actively speak up/act when witnessing discrimination.
By no means do I think myself an expert. I am still early in my journey to learning about anti-racism. I am just fortunate to have some amazing colleagues who were doing the work and helped me get started on this journey. Last year we engaged in a lot of learning that allowed me the space to start to look at my own thoughts and actions and start to recognize my own biases and start to see microaggressions for what they are. I started to come to a better understanding that as honest a life as I had wanted to live, I had not seen the racism within myself before. I grew up with friends of different ethnicities and was engaged to a visible minority - so how could I be racist?
And so my journey to embrace mu vulnerability, recognize my privilege and to take action to change had begun. If there is a moment from those early days that really sticks out, it was when student stories (from students at my own school) were being shared with and I found myself realizing that I was (unconsciously) responding to the reactions of students of colour differently in the classroom. I had to do a lot of reflection to identify which of my actions/words/thoughts I needed to become more aware of - the mental list had begun.
What I am sharing here today is no authoritative stance, nor does it necessarily reflect any perfect views or ideas. This is just me trying to use my privilege to stand with the BIPOC community. Hopefully you are starting to ask "So what can I do to fight systemic racism in Canada?" It may not be a simple answer, but it is doable!
1) Educate yourself! This does not mean that you should seek out BIPOCs on your life and ask questions. It is not their job to teach you. (But if someone of colour does choose to speak with you about racism, make the effort to really listen! If a BIPOC tells you that there is something that has caused harm, that is often a moment of vulnerability and trust in their relationship with you - if you are not able to respond with meaning in the moment, be honest that you need time to process and appreciate that they trusted you enough to share - make sure to continue that conversation within a reasonable time to honour your relationship). Start with learning some vocabulary and doing related research on Google OR pick up a book like "So You Want to Talk About Race" which is a good introduction to big ideas and vocabulary OR watch Dear White People on Netflix (and Google vocabulary when it comes up).
2) Do the work! In learning about things like white fragility, systemic racism and microaggressions, do the *personal* work to start to recognize the things you say and do that you may not have realized were racist before and with to change your attitudes, habits and behaviors. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. We are talking about dismantling a system that has been an advantage to you your whole life, try to take your discomfort out of the equation.
3) Be part of the solution! Use your privilege for good. Learn when to stand behind, beside or in front of the BIPOC community to support the work. Say something when you see/hear something. You will not get it right every time. In fact, you will mess up. It's inevitable. But keep learning and keep doing the work. Here is an image about allyship that a friend shared that I found helpful (it is intended for Trans Allies, as soon in the header, but the principles are universal).
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