Last year, we heard a lot in the news about the Starbucks incident with the two Black men who were arrested for being in the café, while waiting for a friend.
The issue? Being Black – and what this meant for the Starbucks employee who called the police. We then heard a lot about unconscious bias, and training. (In fact, I was on the radio twice about it:
On Here and Now (Toronto) with Gill Deacon, and on All in a Day (Ottawa) with Alan Neal
Well, today I’m sharing a recent Canadian example – in Parliament.
What can anti-Black racism look like?
A group of Black people were profiled on Parliament Hill last week.
What makes it ironic is that they were there to provide sensitivity training as part of Black History Month.
Hmm….. profiling during Black History Month (when we may assume there is more reason for Black folks to be present) suggests to me that the month isn’t really raising awareness!
There was no police, and no arrests, but a security guard asked the group to disperse, and photos were taken.
Being Black automatically equalled being seen as suspicious, that they had no business being there, and that they were up to no good.
This is what anti-Black racism looks like.
What is the impact of anti-Black racism?
It’s why more Black people have negative encounters (including fatal encounters) with police (as shown in a recent Ontario Human Rights’ Commission report that I wrote about here).
It contributes to high suspension and drop out rates for Black students.
These are Toronto-based articles and reports, but we could pull similar statistics from likely all major cities in North America.
And if we look more closely, it contributes to lack of racial diversity in positions of leadership.
It’s a cycle that begins from when we are small, and accumulates over time.
Unconscious bias as well as conscious racial prejudice create a society where our experiences, how we are seen, how we are treated, our opportunities, and often our career trajectory are negatively impacted by the darker colour of our skin.
Part of the fabric of our society…
This is what anti-Black racism can look like in Canada.
It’s more insidious, it’s easier to explain away, it’s often harder to put a finger on because it’s so much a part of the fabric of our society (even though as Canadians we don’t want to think it is).
As a result, the impact is even more devastating because it’s harder to talk about (and deal with) when people discount actions like this or refuse to see them as racism.
So, I wonder if, when the Speaker’s response is released next week, there will be some Unconscious Bias and Anti-Black Racism training happening at Parliament Hill…
What do you think?
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