Updated: Mar 24
By: Gail Strachan, co-Founder of Antiracism in PR Summit and the Ubora Network
You’ve heard it all before:
“Keep your head down, do your job and your efforts will be recognized.”
“I am the Executive Vice-President of Finance & Accounting, not the Diversity specialist.”
“Not everything is about race.”
These declarations are a few examples of the barriers of exclusion layered in racism that many BIPoC citizens manoeuvre on a day-to-day basis. These “distractions” in dialogue are a portion of the reason why white supremacy is difficult for some to see and therefore address. Getting out of your bubble is the way to start practicing antiracism. It is only when we do, that equity, inclusion, diversity and belonging will see its full potential.
While society seems to be “awakening” to the racism that many BIPoC have been experiencing for generations, race in this “wokeness” continues to be de-centred. For this reason, we continue to circle the dialogue of EDIB while not ever facing the root cause analysis - white supremacy.
BIPoC are not a monolith. Within and among each group we have specific matters that are unique to our experiences. The tie that binds us together, however, is that of our skin and the way it has been weaponized as a target for the cause of the day; From antiasian hate to over policing black neighbourhoods to missing Indigenous women. If we continue to circle the conversation of race that has held the globe captive for generations past, it will continue to do so for generations to come.
How can we enable this change?
First, your review of this piece and attendance at the Antiracism in PR Summit is the start to your individual, organizational or social change curve ahead.
Second, you need to recognize and then change, the gaps in your knowledge, networks and knee-jerk reactions to conversation around race and your privilege in its current construct.
For instance, let’s start with the term “visible minority.” While this may or may not be true about the physical representation of racial and ethnic groups in some regions across Canada, the term completely ignores its insidious reference to the power structure of being BIPoC. Across every aspect of society, we are either vastly underrepresented or disproportionately negatively affected. The “minority” is about our self-determination in this white society - not our physical demographics.
This anecdotal and very much documented fact is true around the world and across all socio-economic areas.
If your firm has not made a humane or strategic decision to take action on antiracism, you are already behind. It is therefore recommended that you also,
Three, expand your bubble by recognizing that everything IS about race even when you cannot see it. That was THE intention when racial constructs were designed. This understanding requires you to authentically expand outside of your knowledge, response and accountability circles to dismantle white supremacy.
Lastly (for the purpose of this piece). You are required to use your voice to challenge the current rules that uphold the status quo. This has been demonstrated and documented as the barriers to equity and inclusion. Change will only take place when everything, from education systems to insurance policies, are audited with an equity lens at the forefront.
BIPoC have had to function at the crossroads of racism, sexism, colorism, ableism, homophobia, and all the social constructs that exist in this patriarchal, white-centered society. Changing this requires individuals and organizations to center race and ethnicity.
To think otherwise is to be against racism, but not be antiracist.
White. Cis-gendered male. Straight. Able-bodied. English-speaking. Christian. Upper-middle class.
This summit on antiracism in PR is about CHANGE in centering all voices, not just one. Our two-day agenda will be about leaders who are expanding their bubble and sharing the tools and tactics that interrupt and eventually dismantle these power systems and processes currently in place.
You will hear about:
· The formula already used for intersections of whiteness (gender, orientation, age, abilty, etc.) adding the intersection of race for BIPoC parity across society.
· How to design and build artificial intelligence to interrupt bias and encourage inclusion and diversity through data and technology
· The language to be used in the workplace and in social circles to address racial hate, adopt new behaviour and make changes for the betterment of our lives and others
· Why the CEO must take part in this dialogue and not expect HR functions to be solely responsible for the cultural DNA of an enterprise
· Provide recommendations on what to do when there is resistance and in what forms it shows up, as we move towards change.
These conversations and more must be pushed by the communications professional. We sit at the precipice of change in society through media headlines, marketing campaigns, advertising and behavioural change that has shifted the social construct of society toward whiteness. We can do the same when referring to racial identities and intersectionality.