Module 3: Anti-Black Racism
Responsibility for blunting racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist thoughts and actions is shared between individuals, organizations, and society. In every work and learning environment that you enter, you have the opportunity to create a more inclusive space for Black people.
The aim of these modules is to gain knowledge, awareness and skills that will enable learners to take effective actions that combat discrimination and create more inclusive and safe environments, so the experience of learning is a rich one with opportunities for you bring your full creative self too and be meaningfully engaged. It is acknowledged that the power dynamics between the student who may be experiencing or witnessing discrimination and the perpetrators who may be in a position of authority or status (this can also be another peer) can make challenging or speaking up difficult and sometimes scary. There are different factors that weigh into a person’s decision to act and are not always clear-cut reasons nor are they the same for everyone. Whatever the reason, the decision you make should be one that you are comfortable with.
Being informed about the options available to you can help you to determine how you wish to respond and the steps that can be taken, the supports available and the possible outcomes. In some circumstances, the decision to address concerns and incidents does not rest with only you. Once a disclosure is made, processes to respond to situations of discrimination or harassment are triggered such as an investigation or duty to report and respond, as impacts can go beyond individuals directly involved impacting the large group or organization.
Deciding how to respond does not have to be a decision you make on your own and without support. You are encouraged to reach out to program faculty and staff within your institution. There may also be a variety of campus services from which you can also seek advice, will assist you with getting connected to the proper supports and bringing a complaint forward. Remember you do not have to handle things on your own.
Here are some strategies that you may wish to consider:
- Take Responsibility: Once you enter a work or learning environment, your actions (and inactions) become a part of its social fabric; you will become interwoven with that environment’s values and behaviours. Likewise, your values and behaviours will be felt by those around you. As a contributor to that environment, own what that contribution looks like. Racism impacts our thoughts and actions, often unconsciously, even if we do not want it to, whether we profit from it or internalize the damaging messages. Once we recognize this, we may begin to unpack how we contribute to the problem and what we can do to address it.
- Do Your Own Research: By completing this Pressbook, you have begun the first step. Educate yourself about the history and present-day realities that Black people face in the workplace. Don’t stop at this Pressbook. To go further, share resources with peers in a work or learning environment, and encourage co-workers to do their own research as well.
- Witness and Respond: Before responding to an act of racism or discrimination that you have witnessed, consider the power dynamics that exist in the situation, and if the perpetrator will retaliate against the target of the incident, others in their identifying community, or even yourself.
- Assess Your Work Environment: Understand your organization’s positions and actions towards dismantling anti-Black racism. This will involve active participation and not just expressions of support. Ask about your organization’s anti-Black racism policy, resources and support, and call out any areas where you see gaps.
In all of these approaches, aim to exhibit good ally behaviour. This looks like assessing the people, power, and place where discrimination happens before taking action. This also looks like taking an intersectional approach to dismantling anti-Black racism. People hold many identities targeted for discrimination that include racial, gender, sexual, cultural, ability, and age.
Given below are examples of Take Responsibility, Do your own research, Witness and Respond:
Navigating the professional world as a Black person can be challenging, particularly in industries with less representation. Consider these tips for creating a more inclusive space for yourself in the workplace:
- Set boundaries: Black people are often called on to champion anti-Black racism initiatives within their workplaces, or to educate non-Black colleagues on discrimination. Take some time to reflect on what you are comfortable with so that if/when you are asked (especially in high-stress situations), you have a response ready. Know that it is okay to not want to be that champion, and just as similarly, that you should not feel inadequate should you decide to take it on. Do not just set these boundaries. Write them down so that they enter real-time and space.
- Seek employee resource groups or people that relate to you: Navigating the workplace alone can be challenging or overwhelming. Frankly, finding people you relate to can make it easier. Seek out existing employee resource groups; if they do not exist, think about creating them. These groups can be safe spaces to discuss issues like microaggressions and frustrations in the workplace and get support from your community.
- Seek out a mentor and community: Canada has a number of Black professional groups that you can connect with, which are general or industry-specific. The list below is just a starting point.
- General Community: The Onyx Initiative, Black Business and Professional Association
- Medical Community: Black Medical Students Association of Canada
- Technology Industry: Black Professionals in Tech Network (North America)
- Arts and Media industry: National Association of Black Journalists SEED Program, NIA Centre for the Arts (Toronto)
- Become familiar with your workplace and learning environment rights: Laws exist to prohibit discrimination within the workplace, but that does not mean that it will not occur. It is important to be aware of your rights and protection to be equipped to report any discrimination. The list below is just a starting point.