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Eliminating Racial Discrimination is 2021’s Biggest Challenge
Posted on May 18, 2021
March 21st marked the 55th International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is an important year for this annual event, given the series of incidents in 2020 that heightened public awareness and opened up discussion about racism in our province. The year began with media coverage of anti-Indigenous racism across BC related to Wet’suwet’en land disputes. A month later, with the onset of COVID-19, reports of anti-Asian racism were rising. According to Vancouver Police, there had been a 717% increase in anti-Asian racism over the course of the year. In May 2020, the death of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented dialogue about the prevalence and impact of racism across North America and around the world.
While the existence of racism in BC is not news to Indigenous and Black communities and other racialized British Columbians, for many white British Columbians, these events exposed a shocking, undeniable reality.
According to the BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, “Racism is the belief that one group, as defined by the colour of their skin or their perceived common ancestry, is inherently superior to others.” It goes on to explain that racism, “Can be openly displayed in jokes, slurs or hate speech or can be more hidden in unconscious biases. Racism is deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs.”
Our attitudes, values and stereotypes inform our actions and decision-making. In Canada, these are reinforced by institutions and systems that were built to reflect the values of just one group. The result today is that the colour of your skin can determine the quality of your health care, the likelihood of graduating high school, the frequency of being stopped by police and the chance of getting that great job that will one day lead to a decision-making position. We all have a right to live in a society free from racism and we all have a responsibility to fully understand our own attitudes, values and stereotypes that may be reinforcing the racism rooted in our society.
Addressing systemic racism is one of the most important challenges facing us today. The Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network is bringing British Columbians together to address this issue through education and action. Our website offers information to people who are targeted by racism or hate, and resources for others wanting to learn more. Find a book to read, a video to watch, a class to take or people to connect with in your community.
The Province of BC launched a province-wide anti-racism awareness campaign to encourage reflection and discussion about racism in our communities. The campaign features the work of young BC artists and carries messages about our collective responsibility to take action. One image addresses the importance of speaking out when a racist comment is made or incident takes place while another acknowledges that anti-racism work is difficult and encourages us not to give up. The campaign reminds us that we can only tackle the challenging issues in our lives if we are able to talk about them, “It’s hard to discuss racism. It’s awkward. It stirs up a lot of strong emotions. But it’s worth it, as we work toward a more equitable society.”
In 2020, the story was about the ugly realities of racism in BC In 2021, let’s make the story about communities taking action against racism and hate through education and dialogue. On this day, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we can each take a step toward eliminating racism and hate.
The Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network is funded by the Province of British Columbia and offers a province-wide approach to identifying and challenging racism. The program connects more than 50 BC communities with information, supports and the training they need to respond to, and prevent, future incidents of racism and hate. Other provincial anti-racism initiatives underway include the creation of an Anti-racism Act and legislation to allow the collection of race-based data to inform public policy decisions.
Written by Jane Hurtig, Director of the Resilience BC Hub