This first blog is an introduction and a conversation – a collaboration between our anti-racism and social justice work.
Visit the Canadian Public Health Association website for a statement on racism and public health.
As a physician, I have seen unequal access and treatment of Indigenous, Black and racialized people in learning and work environment, and read countless journal articles documenting the same.
While we are trained as medical experts and scholars, what we know hasn’t been sufficient to disrupt or address racism in ways that have been shown to close these gaps in unequal care by race.
As a sociologist, I am attentive to the continuing significance of the legacies of enslavement, imperialism, and settler colonialism in the present.
I have examined racism’s impact in post-secondary institutions, the law and sport – and now I am working in the realm of health care.
That said, there are certainly many points of connection across different systems, organizations and institutions – the pervasiveness and persistence of racisms… I use the plural because racism is not one thing.
The events of the past two years – COVID -19 and the denial of bodily autonomy (the right to health and wellness, freedom from police violence, autonomy over gender and sexuality and the right to look after our children and families in safe and sustained communities) certainly exacerbated existing inequities and they have also produced new forms of violence.
The enduring legacies of residential schools as evidenced in the uncovering of the bodies of the 215 children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School (and the thousands more graves identified since), the death of Joyce Echaquan, the murder of George Floyd, and the reckoning with anti-Black racism, the rise in racism against people of East Asian descent, Islamophobia, and the death of Indigenous, Black, and racialized people in police involved shootings across the country.
These are not individual acts of racism, or the actions of a few bad apples, these are instances of systemic racism. These are acts that demonstrate how race influences who lives and who dies. Racism lowers life chances - racism kills.
I am reminded of the insights of the late Audre Lorde, a Black lesbian feminist writer poet and activist (1984). In her words, “We have the power those who came before us have given us, to move beyond the place where they were standing” (Sister outsider, p. 144).
I interpret Lorde’s remarks as both a responsibility and opportunity- our lives are shaped by all that has come before…
There is no quick fix, or toolkit, which can solve racism – if it were easy, we would be in a very different place. A new path forward towards racial justice is challenging, but possible if we commit to new learning, building relationships, cultural shifts, and structural change.
We have commitments – in our Faculty’s Disruption of all forms of racism policy, the Truth and reconciliation action plan, and Equity, diversity, and inclusion policy, and in the University’s commitment to the Scarborough Charter.
We have educational tools available (e.g., Learning module on disruption of all forms of racism policy and Manitoba Indigenous cultural safety training) and in development (e.g., Disrupting dialogues anti-racism speaker series, enhancing our racial literacy activities, and learning module on how to receive a disclosure of racism).
We all have a role to play.
What we need from our Faculty community is humility, accountability, courage, and open engagement with new learning, the application of new knowledge, and full participation in the organizational and structural changes required to create a more racially just environment.
If not now, then when?
Visit the Canadian Public Health Association website for a statement on racism and public health
Audre Lorde (1984): Sister Outsider.
Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press Feminist Series.
Disruption of all forms of racism policy