The horrifying death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25th is the latest in a tragic string of deaths of black people at the hands of the police, and one which has fanned the flames of protest around institutional racism in much of North America. It has left many of us wondering what we can do to combat this insidious threat, or feeling powerless against it.
Tomorrow sees a (hopefully) peaceful protest in Ottawa, beginning at 3:00PM outside the American Embassay on Sussex St., and culminating in a march to parliament hill. Many of us are changing our Facebook or Twitter profile pictures in solidarity or using these platforms to share our own feelings of frustration at this ongoing injustice. But many of us also feel like there’s little we can do.
That’s not true, however. There is a lot the average person, whatever their skin colour but especially white people, can do, both generally to address racism in culture, and specifically. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of ways to take action and help others right now:
Make a Donation – Black Lives Matter Canada (based in Toronto) accepts donations online through PayPal. They offer legal services, speaker services, and other support to black individuals and allies accross Canada. Make a donation here. The Canadian-Anti Hate Network works to expose and counter hate groups across the country. The Black Legal Action Centre provides free legal services for low/no income black individuals in Ontario. Donate or subscribe to their newsletter here.
Help Minneapolis – the area where Mr Floyd was killed is currently experiencing food shortages as a result of civil unrest – a situation that’s likely to contribute to further unrest, and is causing hardship for many vulnerable citizens. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church is a local faith community that is working to distribute food to the community. Supporting them supports their vulnerable neighbours through this extremely difficult time.
Advocate for a Just Economic Recovery – as communities world-wide, and locally, struggle to rebuild a stable economy with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we also face an opportunity to look at economic recovery through and equity lens. It’s a big-picture approach, but supporting a recovery plan the prioritizes people of all different backgrounds, and is built around principles of equity and social justice, can have tremendous long-term impacts. Read more about the 6 principles of a just recovery here.
Educate Yourself & Share Resources – everyone has implicit biases. For nearly all of us,
some of those are a bit racist. That doesn’t mean we’re racist – our subconscious brains are wired to come up with stereotypes and to feel safer with people who look like us – but it does mean we need to use our conscious brains to examine and combat our implicit biases, to become better versions of ourselves. A good place to start is the collection of anti-racism resources that can be accessed for free here.
Examine Your Groups – everyone has groups. Your workplace. Your place of worship. A
volunteer Board you serve on. A sports team. A knitting circle. Obviously some of these groups will be more diverse than others, and that’s okay. It is useful, however, to sometimes take a look at these groups and explore whether there are any subtle barriers to inclusivity that might be keeping your circles smaller than they should be. Is hiring done by word of mouth? That can work great, but it can also lead to a bit of nepotism and doesn’t encourage diversity, since people tend to know other people who are a lot like them. Is the language used by organization (written or in person) inclusive? Does the regular meeting time or venue cater to specific groups, and could it be changed up a bit? Many local organizations (Volunteer Ottawa, the City for All Women Initiative, for example) offer training on inclusion/anti-oppression and encouraging diversity in groups such as volunteer Boards. Some strategies are context-dependent, but a lot apply to many situations. Read a quick overview on supporting diversity in volunteer groups here.
Hopefully we’ll see many of you (safely) at the march tomorrow, and hopefully this list was helpful. If you have other resources, or would like to share your experience of racism in Ottawa, please leave a comment below or email email@example.com.