By: Sharlyn Carrington
Published originally on March 4 as a promo for The 2021 National Anti-Racism in PR Summit
On May 26, 2020 non-racialized communities woke up to the stark reality that racism persists. That was the day after George Floyd was killed. Although many Canadians surely would argue our cultures differ from the mainstream culture in the U.S., we are not immune to racism here in Canada. This is a fact many either ignored, or simply had the privilege of not realizing before.
To me, the wind has changed direction. It was once unheard of for companies to pursue discussion about our differences, to address the elephants in the room, and to seek out conversations about anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Companies are finding themselves now regretful of their previous silence on these issues. They are now challenged with not only addressing but taking action to support tangible change.
As more become aware of the system of oppression within which our industry was built, it’s valuable that we have a collective approach to productive conversations about racism. In preparation for our summit on March 22 and 23, let’s begin the work now, and prepare ourselves to enter what promises to be an exciting time of inspiration, motivation, and profound learning.
1. Realize that this is not comfortable. This is not going to be easy. This is a tough and challenging topic. Emotions will and are running high. Some people are coming to this conversation with years of lived experience, experiences that may be bubbling over. Some people are coming to this conversation with a new desire to learn what they don’t know. And others still are secretly feeling attacked or ashamed that they may have, even inadvertently contributed to the system of oppression that still impacts so many racialized individuals.
3. Actively listen. Building on the previous point, someone may say something you don’t agree with, you don’t understand, or may trigger you. Calling out wildly inappropriate and personal attacks is always encouraged, but we should also understand that when we’re having an open conversation in a safe space, sometimes people aren’t intentionally looking to offend. Instead, let’s consider they are looking to understand. Sometimes, people don’t know, or people are sharing based on their own experience. We should all try and not interrupt. Let people finish their thoughts. Gather your own, try and see into the intention behind their thinking, before taking the time to teach.
6. Recognize that you don’t know, what you don’t know. Someone’s experience may be drastically different than your own, but their experience is valid.
8. Know that boundaries are set for our discussions on March 22 and 23. Respectful language must be used and will be enforced at all times. Name-calling, personal attacks, obscenity, and vulgarity do not contribute to productive dialogue and will not be tolerated.
We are truly long beyond the point of conversation. We are in the time of action. But for many, especially those newly awakened to these issues, having these conversations is crucial to their learning and understanding. These conversations are a starting point, they help foster an environment where tangible action towards change can take place.
Change does not and cannot happen overnight, or after attending one conference. Creating inclusive workplaces, communities and societies will require a lifelong commitment to do better.