Social Issues Discussion: Anti-Racism in YYC

Violence fuelled by racism seems to be constantly in the media. Prompted by these events, Social Issues Committee volunteers decided to host a workshop centered on what Calgarian women can do to engage with anti-racism to fight discrimination in their communities.

On Wednesday, April 5th, about 45 women participated in a “living library” workshop on anti-racism in Calgary. Five “library book” facilitators engaged in conversations with other women of colour and non-racialized women about racism and anti-racism work in Calgary.

What is Racism?

At the Women’s Centre, we talk about racism as part of a structure of marginalization and discrimination that intersects with ageism, classism, sexism, ableism, etc. One of the major ways that racism presents itself is through actions or practices that subordinate people predominantly because of their race, skin colour and other physical characteristics. Racism can also happen through thoughts or even subconscious ways of thinking.

For example,

Therefore, anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by challenging institutions, policies, individuals, language, and thoughts that subordinate people because of their race or skin colour. The goal is to redistribute power and share it equitably among all people, regardless of their race.

What can you do about it?

Constantly engaging in anti-racism work is exhausting and difficult work but it is necessary. It was reiterated throughout the workshop that it is important to engage with anti-racism work in your daily life. Here are some ways that we came up with:

  • There is empowerment through reflection; it is a blessing to learn and be accountable to your mistakes.
  • Talk about racism with people you know, it can be harmful to ignore conversations about race.
  • It is important to have conversations with people who disagree with you.
  • Don’t disregard the experiences of racialized people or people of colour (do not accuse or minimize experiences).
  • Believe the victim and ask what you can do.
  • Cultural appropriation – people of colour are not for consumption; their bodies, ideas or experiences.
  • Do not demand emotional labour, particularly affecting women and femmes of colour.
  • Build supportive community.
  • Use the privilege that you have to disrupt the narrative.
  • Build relationships and accept other ways of being.
  • Depending on the circumstances, stand with/between/behind racialized folks.
  • Above all, engage in respectful relationships.

Special thanks to our “living library” facilitators, Charlene Campo, Intergovernmental and International Issues Policy Advisor with the Department of Labour in the Government of Alberta; Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, one of the founding members of Calgary Anti-Racism Education (CARED) and works at the University of Calgary’s Native Centre; Thulasy Lettner, Equity Framework Coordinator at CommunityWise and the Project Lead on the Anti-Racist Organizational Change project; Tyra Erskine, anti-racism facilitator and teacher with the Anti-Racist Organizational Change project; and Mansharn Toor, Policy Analyst for the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation.

Another thank you to all of our participants and volunteers that helped put on such a great event with lots of stimulating conversations. Our next Social Issues Discussion will be on Craftivism on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 6:00pm.

This post was written by Blaire Christensen, Member of the Social Issues Committee

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