What does it mean to be actively anti-racist?
- The first thing one needs to know is that engagement in antiracism work is a lifelong journey, that begins with deep introspection of one’s core values of who one wishes to be as a local and global citizen and the integral part race plays in that determination.
- Antiracism requires one to acknowledge that this work did not begin in 2020, during this recent movement. As such to be actively anti-racist, means knowing the history of race and racism in this city and Canada, and the many organizations, organizers and activists who have been mobilized in this work and providing support to communities for the decades past. For example, before there was Black Lives Matter in Toronto there was the Black Action Defense Committee; Take the time to read historical reports such as the Report from the Advisor on Race Relations to the then Ontario Premier Bob Rae, written by Stephen Lewis in 1992. The reasons that spark marches and protests may differ year over year, but – the deep-rooted systemic racism that has always existed in Canada – is the one constant that has not changed.
- So with that context I offer the following:
- One must actively determine their role and responsibility to Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. When is the last time you read through the document and enquired about the status of your organization’s efforts and accountability to the TRC?
- Identify the spaces of power that you hold – through your socially constructed identities and from other power sources including in your professional and social circles (social capital) – use that power actively and responsibly to create spaces of opportunity and eliminate barriers for Black, Indigenous and racialized communities – whether in employment, education, housing, health care, criminal justice system, media etc. Whether you are using your voice, your monies, your real estate, your decision making authority, whatever tools you have at your disposal, use them.
- Do not engage in this work with a sweeping brush. Racism is a disease that is impacting racialized communities differently. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted (once again) anti-Asian racism and the Asian community’s experiences with xenophobic comments and behavior. Moreover, whether in regards to policing, the education system or in health care, data has shown that Black and Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted within these systems.
- Finally, be brave and do more. Putting up a social media post is not enough. Activate courage in your workplaces, in the classroom and in your homes, when you know you are hearing something that is just not right. We need interrupters of the daily cuts created by microaggressions. We need change-makers, who are willing to take a look at the make up of their teams or the images hung on the walls in their schools and say we need to make a change to make the environment reflective and more importantly welcoming, to Black, Indigenous and racialized persons.
2) I want to support the Black community, where do I begin?
- Supporting the Black community means understanding that the Black community is a community filled with a diversity of ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, Creed and spiritual beliefs, different abilities and many more individualities. One voice cannot represent the perspective of all communities and yet every voice is touched by anti-Black racism. #Blacktranslivesmatter #Blackwomenlivesmatter #Blackbodieswithdifferentabilitiesmatter
- Supporting the Black community begins with relationship building. Actions only translate into support when trust is present. That trust begins with ongoing engagement, dialogue and relationships with Black community.
- Supporting the Black community means allowing oneself to be willing to be held accountable, managing ones defensiveness and taking the steps to do better.
3) What local organizations can I support?
- There are several resources circulating online and on social media highlighting Black organizations and businesses that Torontonians can support ranging from organizations such as the Black Legal Action Center, Black Lives Matter TO and the Black Liberation Collective. I would also like to encourage folks to reflect on the varying businesses they frequent: restaurants, vineyards, florists, clothing stores, accountants, etc. and ask themselves – Is there a Black, Indigenous or racialized – owned business that provide these very services that I can access?
- Many institutions and organizations have associations and affinity groups that are Black focused – support them. Attend their events, engage in the learning forums, support their fundraising initiatives, if appropriate make donations, build the relationships and integrate these communities into your decision making – these are the ways individuals can provide support.
4) What do I need to know about racism in my city?
- Racism has historical roots and present-day, everyday manifestations. The work to eradicate systemic, institutional and individual forms of racism is a collective responsibility.