By Macayla Yan and Dr. Fred Chou
Macayla Yan, a masters graduate at UVic, and Dr. Fred Chou, an assistant professor in the department of Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies, explore the issue of racism As a recent community report describes, racism is the reality for the majority of Indigenous people, Black people, and people of colour (IBPOC) in Victoria. Although they see value in equity and inclusion, the focus of their article is to move beyond equity and inclusion to explore anti-racism so that all IBPOC can live in justice, freedom, and wellness.
Seventy one (71) percent of Indigenous people, Black people, and people of colour (IBPOC) in Victoria regularly experience racism1. We, too, experience such harms. As such, for brevity, we hope to start from a mutual understanding that racism and violence stemming from colonization2 are widespread, systemic issues that occur here. The intention of this article is not to convince readers that racism and other forms of systemic oppression exist in Victoria, as others have already published excellent reports on this matter 1,3,4,5.
Holding this knowledge, we ponder if equity and inclusion are enough. In some ways, we recognize value in equity and inclusion, though in others we wonder if the focus on equity and inclusion masks the severity of harm, oppression, and white supremacy that is embedded in the systems and structures of our society, including health care, education, and law6. We worry emphasizing equity and inclusion unintentionally reinforces racial and colonial power dynamics by centering the status quo and attempting to fit IBPOC into a damaging system. As such, we aim to extend the conversation beyond equity and inclusion to explore how we, as a community, can work towards abolishing racism and cultivating justice for all IBPOC7. We all deserve to live free from systemic oppression.
Before we continue, we invite you to check-in with yourself. How are you feeling? It is normal to experience multiple and mixed emotions. Inquire into where those feelings might be coming from and how you want to continue. With openness, wonder, what are these emotions telling you? Rather than attempting to do away with uncomfortable emotions, we encourage you to sit with the discomfort for a little while.
Learning to recognize and tolerate our feelings and expand our comfort zones regarding this often charged topic is an essential element to anti-racism8. Because racism is entrenched in our society, and has been since the creation of Victoria, we cannot continue to support existing conditions if we want to live in communities free of racism. Thus, we cannot be passive in the face of racism, because to eliminate it, we must actively struggle against white supremacy. As such, collectively and individually, we need to be willing to learn, open to feedback, accountable for mistakes, amenable to change, and prepared to make sacrifices. This work is not glamorous, but it is necessary. For some, this can be difficult as it may challenge the way you view yourself and how you relate to those around you9. Furthermore, if you are unjustly privileged by systemic racism, you may need to share your power and resources10.
Power is the level of influence and privilege we possess as individuals and collectives. Racism creates a hierarchy of power that also intersects with gender, ability, socioeconomic status, and more that deems some people as more intelligent, capable, and worthy of listening to than others by default. Where does your power lie? We have witnessed people use their power to change policies and practices to require anti-racism education, remove racist standards, develop new programming, or allocate funds for IBPOC. We watch parents strive to raise anti-racist children. We observe friends teaching each other about why certain jokes or comments are racist. We notice people organizing meals, rides, and fundraisers for IBPOC.
If you are privileged with whiteness, we invite you to consider that your sphere of influence and power may be wider than IBPOC when discussing racism. Last June, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter uprisings, I, Macayla, emailed a local nonprofit with all white staff about an inappropriate quote they put in their monthly newsletter, “There’s only one race, the human race,” miscredited to Rosa Parks. In my email, I was clear and assertive about how the misquote is a racial microaggression7,11, that erases the impacts of racism. As an organization that lacks racial and ethnic representation, I called on them to be more accountable and do better. I had been volunteering at the nonprofit for a few years and was dismissed multiple times when I tried to address culture and racism12. While I was not excessively warm in the message, I was not aggressive, yet they perceived the email as an attack and chose to ignore me13. In contrast, a white woman who had been volunteering there for a few months emailed them about the same quote and was received much more kindly. We use this example to demonstrate how white voices often hold more power in conversations about race with other white people, so if you have one, we hope you use yours.
When we speak about resources, we mean money, labour, access to material assets, and connections to networks. IBPOC contend with additional barriers to resources, so redistributing them is a part of anti-racism. We hope to see more people giving funds directly to individuals for bills, therapy, food, and other expenses. We note some people provide sliding scale or pro bono professional services. Recently, an Indigenous person made a call for settlers with vacation homes to offer them to Indigenous peoples for retreats to help recuperate from the harms of colonialism14. How can you share resources?
Last but not least, we encourage you to use your creativity and imagine a new society together. We are trying to build something that has not occurred as long as Victoria has existed. We ask you to consider, what do just relationships, health care, education, public safety, governance, and housing security look like15? How can we honour and uphold the sovereignty of the Lək̓ ʷəŋən and W̱ SÁNEĆ Nations? How can we ensure sustainability and longevity for future generations? How can we dismantle and abolish oppression so we are not included at the expense of others, but rather so we can all thrive? Our communities can be so much more lush, nourishing, transformative, and gorgeous than this. Let us envision beyond what is around us. From these dreams, we can find direction, develop concrete actions, and foster meaningful relationships.
We are worthy of much more than this. Let us make it happen collectively.
1 Racism in Victoria: A community report, GVLIP & ICA
2 Settler colonialism primer, Laura Hurwitz & Shawn Bourque https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/settler-colonialism-primer/
3 In plain sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination in BC health care https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/613/2020/11/In-Plain-Sight-Full-Report.pdf
4 Challenging racist “British Columbia”: 150 years and counting https://www.challengeracistbc.ca/
5 Confronting racism with solidarity: An analysis of the 2020 HSA workplace racism survey, Samantha Ponting https://hsabc.org/sites/default/files/news/web%20Confronting%20racism%20with%20solidarity%20report. pdf
6 The white elephant in the room: Anti-Asian racism in Canada, Dr. Henry Yu https://beyond.ubc.ca/henry-yu-white-elephant/
7 Cultivating growth and solidarity: An anti-racism zine for Asian youth (& adults too!)
8 The window of transformation, Kai Cheng Thom https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=1938523202945795&set=ecnf.100052521342676
9 Dismantle racial gatekeeping, Andrew Lee https://www.antiracismdaily.com/archives/dismantle-racial-gatekeeping-anti-racism-daily
10 A modest proposal for energetic reparations, Macayla Yan https://www.macayla.info/blog/proposal-energetic-reparations
11 Racial microaggressions in every day life, no identified author https://chronicle.brightspotcdn.com/63/6b/3f8230259cd57d3995c16b3251dc/microaggressions.pdf
12 The “problem” women of colour in nonprofit organizations, Kira Page
13 What is tone policing and why is it wrong? Shambhavi Raj Singh https://feminisminindia.com/2020/07/17/infographic-tone-policing-why-its-wrong/
14 Jacquelin Jennings on twitter https://twitter.com/JacquelineDJenn/status/1415831865802461184
15 What is transformative justice? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-_BOFz5TXo
We are welcoming various guest authors to create space for a variety of viewpoints, therefore the messaging in the article does not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the Victoria Foundation or our partners.