The Whitelash Next Time

Of note despite treating all white Americans the same:

Two months. That’s how long it took for white Americans’ support of Black Lives Matter—which climbed to an unprecedented peak in June after the brutal police murder of George Floyd—to tumble back toward preprotest levels. Over the same period, surveys show, declining numbers of white respondents cited anti-Black racism as a “big problem” in American society. An NPR/Ipsos poll from late August found white people are the racial group least likely to report taking even the most minor “actions to better understand racial issues in America” since protests began sweeping the country. Just half of white Americans concede “racism is built into the American economy, government, and educational systems.” And 49 percent believe America has already done enough “to give Black Americans equal rights with white Americans.”

It’s always true that most white folks are unbothered and unmoved by anti-Black discrimination and violence; the steadfast endurance of American institutional racism proves that. It is also clear from history that white anti-racism has always had a dangerously short shelf life. Ignore the barrels of digital ink spilled lately about white people’s new willingness to reckon with structural racism. When the pendulum swings toward Black equality and full citizenship, white supremacy mounts a counteroffensive.

Cornell University historian Lawrence Glickman notes the word “backlash” gained circulation during the civil rights movement in 1963 as a shorthand for the “topsy-turvy rebellion in which white people with relative societal power perceived themselves as victimized by what they described as overly aggressive African Americans demanding equal rights.” The term summed up the most reliable white reaction to Black rights dating at least to Reconstruction, when the mere facts of Black emancipation and voter enfranchisement were construed as provocations for justifiable white racist terrorism. Between 1865—when six former Confederate soldiers founded the Ku Klux Klan—and 1950, nearly 6,500 Black men, women, and children were lynched for affronts that included bumping into a white woman and not using “Mister” when talking to a white man. “The more I studied the situation,” wrote Ida B. Wells, “the more I was convinced that the [white] Southerner had never gotten over his resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income.”

Refugees of the Great Migration, the mass movement of African Americans to the North and West to flee that terror, were subjected to yet more white violence. Enraged by Black folks seeking equal employment and housing, as well as returning Black World War I veterans’ demands for the rights at home they had fought for abroad, white mobs in at least 25 riots around the country—including in Chicago; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Washington, D.C.—killed over 250 African Americans during the Red Summer of 1919. Those murders foreshadowed anti-Black pogroms in the thriving Black enclaves of Tulsa, Okla., in 1921 and Rosewood, Fla., in 1923.

The white backlash is typified by what Glickman identifies as “its smoldering resentment, its belief that the movement [for Black rights is] proceeding ‘too fast,’ its demands for emotional and psychological sympathy, and its displacement of African Americans’ struggles with its own claims of grievance.” Case in point: Just months after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, The New York Times reported pervasive white anger over “inverse discrimination.” Then as now, backlashers maligned Black protests and uprisings, insisting property destruction canceled out Black deservedness of human rights. In one 1963 survey, 73 percent of white Southerners and 65 percent of white Northerners said civil rights demonstrations “hurt the Negro’s cause for racial equality,” and multiple white New York City dwellers told the Times in 1964 that “nonviolent civil rights demonstrations had hurt Negroes’ chances” (my emphasis). Historical revisionism has attempted to erase the fact that 75 percent of white folks disapproved of Martin Luther King Jr. in early 1968. In the 1960s, when he was leading protests, a survey found that just 36 percent of white Americansthought he was helping “the Negro cause of civil rights.”

“The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement,” Carol Anderson wrote in her 2016 book White Rage. That rage helped ardent segregationist and presidential candidate George Wallace winfive Southern states in 1968 and five primaries in 1972, including Michigan and Maryland. Promises to send “welfare bums back to work” and to defend white home sellers’ right to “discriminate against Negroes” propelledRonald Reagan to California’s governorship in 1966 and later to the Oval Office. It is right to call the 2016 election of Donald Trump a white backlash against the first Black president—one so fervent, it won poorly educated, college-degree-holding, and young white folks alike—but it is also critical to recognize it as just one white backlash among many. Trump’s presidency is no anomaly but a confirmation of America’s pattern of Black political progress and white retaliation.

Source: The Whitelash Next Time

The EU needs a new story on race and inclusion

Of note:

Three months ago, as angry Black Lives Matter protests erupted across Europe in the wake of the death in police custody of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, flustered European Union officials promised urgent measures to tackle the bloc’s own dismal record in combating race-based violence, discrimination and harassment.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, recognised their countries had a long way to go to achieve racial equality. ‘We need to talk about racism with an open mind,’ the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the European Parliament. ‘Racism is alive in Europe, not just in the US,’ the commissioner for equality, Helena Dalli, confessed, adding: ‘We have to address the roots of the problem, not just the symptoms or the results.’

Von der Leyen held a first-ever commission debate on racism, insisting there must be zero tolerance for discrimination based on colour or race, and promised to ensure more ethnic diversity in EU bodies often described as ‘Brussels so white’. There were plans to craft an ‘action plan’ to tackle inequalities in employment, health and housing, curb police brutality and ensure fair treatment for all.

It was a heady moment. After years of ignoring warnings that racism was a serious problem in Europe and averring that recruitment policies would need to remain ‘colour-blind’, leaders of EU institutions were finally ready to listen and learn—and, most importantly, recognise that discriminatory practices were weakening social cohesion, depriving the economy of its full potential and undermining European values.

Running deep

Turning good intentions into credible and enforceable policies will be a challenge, however. And not just because of the EU’s previous lack of interest and experience in combating ethnic discrimination.

Systemic racism in Europe runs far deeper than toxic far-right diatribes. It has seeped into much of the EU’s institutional discourse and policies. It cannot be wished away by inspiring speeches or noble resolutions.

Moves to dismantle racism in Europe’s economic, political and social systems will therefore need to be deliberate, intentional and sustained—and based on a deeper understanding of the lived reality of Europeans of colour.

Most importantly, to be credible and effective, EU measures to ensure racial justice and equality must be anchored in a fresh and more inclusive European narrative. But that difficult conversation has not even begun.

Toxic stereotyping

Proud talk of ‘unity in diversity’ ignores the fact that European Muslims are still struggling against toxic stereotyping as extremists and potential terrorists. Surveys by rights agencies point to continuing anti-Semitism across Europe, while black Europeans face unrelenting discrimination in their professional and personal lives, including police harassment.

Europe’s estimated 50 million ethnic-minority citizens—representing about 10 per cent of the EU population—are still routinely viewed as permanent ‘migrants’ or exotic foreigners. Many are haunted by the one question they can never, ever, sidestep: ‘Where are you really from?’

That should not surprise. Sometimes unintentionally, though often deliberately, the European narrative—the story of Europe’s history and identity propagated by its leaders and institutions—implies a self-comforting exclusion, contrasting ‘true’ Europeans to unwelcome, intruding outsiders. The ‘European way of life’ which it is now a commission priority to ‘promote’, invokes ‘strong borders’, a ‘modernisation’ of the asylum system and co-operation with ‘partner countries’ to achieve ‘a fresh start on migration’.

The message may be strident or subtle, harsh or soft but it is always clear: Europe is white and Christian. Members of other ethnicities and religions may be tolerated—even needed—but they do not really belong.

Reinforced through school curricula, which ignore the dark side of European colonialism, and by far-right rhetoric, toxic, ‘us’ vs ‘them’ groupthink is no longer the prerogative of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán or other populist leaders. It has been embraced by many mainstream politicians, pliant, uncritical media and anti-migrant campaigners disseminating misinformation.

With ‘race’ and migration so pejoratively linked in the public domain, the systematic demonisation of migrants and refugees, the refusal to accept desperate asylum-seekers and the dehumanising language of tabloid media have further poisoned the conversation.

No quick fixes

Changing Europe’s narrative to become more inclusive will not be easy. There is no miracle solution or quick fix, no one policy which can change years of wilful neglect.

There will have to be a mix of immediate actions—such as raising awareness of dehumanising language and unconscious biases, less discriminatory EU recruitment policies, collection of data on ethnicity, improved police training, close scrutiny of the link between artificial intelligence and structural racism and stricter enforcement of the EU’s 2000 race-equality directive—as well as determined, longer-term policies and measures to change deeply-anchored and long-standing prejudices, stereotypes and cultural norms.

The conversation on facilitating a faster integration of minorities and migrants—which puts the onus on ‘outsiders’ to become part of ‘national culture’, in assimilationist fashion—will need to be replaced by a wider, deeper and fairer concept of inclusion, as developed by the Council of Europe. This recognises the dynamic, multi-faceted and multi-layered interaction between people as they live and work together, providing all members of society with the opportunity to participate equally in political, economic, social and cultural life, and the ‘diversity advantage’ which results in practice.

EU leaders and institutions should play their part discouraging outdated or one-dimensional definitions of ‘European identity’, in favour of a recognition that ‘hyphenated’ Europeans, with fluid, changing and multiple identities, are also true Europeans. As European economies slow down and work begins on ensuring a sustained and sustainable recovery, Europe will need the engagement, skills and talents of all its citizens.

Opportunities for change

The coming months provide important opportunities for change. The EU can prove it is serious about fighting discrimination by developing stronger links with anti-racist organisations, clamping down harder on far-right hate speech and violence and making sure Europe’s ethnic minorities are represented and listened to in the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe. Access to resources from the recently-agreed, EU-wide, multi-billion-euro recovery fund must also be ensured.

The union’s rule-of-law provisions should include reference to national measures to secure racial equality. And EU institutions should indeed make sure their recruitment policies include outreach to ethnic minorities.

There is no magic wand and no one European leader or institution can immediately make black lives matter in Europe. Dismantling years of neglect, and visible and invisible discrimination, will require sustained and painstaking effort.

An EU action plan to combat racism is a good first step. But it must be accompanied by a modern narrative of a truly inclusive and just Europe, which is genuinely ‘united in diversity’—in deed as well as word.

About Shada Islam

Shada Islam is a commentator and analyst on EU affairs, including migration, inclusion, diversity and women’s empowerment. She runs her own Brussels-based global strategy and advisory company, New Horizons Project.

Kay: Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police

An interesting account of police training, the social work side of policing,  and an equally important discussion of the rush to apply a simple race lens rather than a more comprehensive look at the evidence and issues involved.

While it is necessary and legitimate to question police practices, both systemic and particular, and while any death related to policing is a human tragedy, one should neither assume that all incidents involving the police are racist or that none of them are:

A few years ago, when I did ride-alongs with Toronto-area police officers, I saw how much of their job involves dealing with mental-health and addiction issues. Most of the incidents these officers responded to were rooted in a troubled household, and the protagonists typically were well-known to the arriving officers: an autistic adult son whose outbursts overwhelmed aging parents, a wife fearful of an alcoholic husband, an agitated elderly man who’d become convinced his neighbours were spying on him through his devices. Most of these incidents required therapists as much as (or more than) police officers. But since the threat of violence hovered over all of them, at least in theory, it was the police who got the call. As I wrote at the time, the officers mostly played the role of social workers with a badge.

The stereotype of police as violent, poorly trained hotheads is sometimes borne out on YouTube, which now functions as a highlight reel for every bad apple wearing a uniform. But the reality—at least in Canada, where I live—is that new officers are typically post-secondary graduates who spend a lot of their time in training sessions. In 2016, I sat in on one such session at a police headquarters facility west of Toronto, where officers attend seminars conducted by experts from within the community, and then go through elaborate small-group role-playing scenarios led by a trained corps of actors who specialize in mimicking various crisis states. As I reported in a magazine article, the facility features a mock-up house with different rooms, so officers can perform their exercises in realistic domestic environments. When each role-playing scenario was completed, the officers were critiqued and interviewed in front of the entire group. Then the actor herself would give her impressions about how the officers’ behaviour made her feel.

I thought about all this following the real-life case of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the 29-year-old black woman who fell to her death from a Toronto apartment balcony in May while seeking to evade police officers. During one role-playing session I observed four years ago, an actor seeking to evade officers under similar circumstances ran into a bathroom and locked the door. For five minutes, the officers awkwardly tried to coax her out, meeting with eventual success. In the analysis segment that followed, the supervising officer explained that it once was common practice for officers in such situations to simply bash open the door. But this kind of technique fell out of fashion years ago, since it led to unnecessary trauma and risk (for the officers as much as the bathroom occupant).

Some of the other acted exercises I observed included a paranoid schizophrenic crouching under a kitchen table, babbling fearfully as officers tried to soothe him, and a homeless woman who threatened to hurt herself with a knife if officers approached. While holding them at bay from her perch on a living-room sofa, the actress recited a backstory: She had nothing to live for because child services had taken away her kid, her only reason for hope. When she finally put away the knife, the officers walked forward to escort her away—at which point the supervisor ended the exercise and admonished them: “Yes, she put away that knife,” he said. “But how do you know that’s the only weapon she’s got? When you focus on the object, you forget about the person.”

There was also a memorable exercise involving a male actor who was threatening to jump from a window—which presents another grim point of analogy to the Korchinski-Paquet case. It is a mark of this man’s acting skill that, years after I watched his morbid star turn, I still remember the details of his narrative: He was a musician, suffering from depression, who was stuck pursuing a dead-end part-time position with a local orchestra.

Critically, he wasn’t the only actor who was part of this particular exercise. An older woman played the role of his mother, who was screaming non-stop as the officers arrived. Two pairs of officers did the exercise in succession, and their approaches were very different. The first pair—two men who’d recently joined the force—both approached the man and took turns imploring him to step down from the window. But they could barely make themselves heard over the screaming of the actor playing the mother role. Then came the second pair of officers, middle-aged women who’d apparently worked together on the beat. One of the women spoke to the man, while the other officer gently guided the mother off into another room. This was correct practice, the instructor said: You can’t make any progress if you’re just going to become bystanders to an ongoing drama. In many cases, you need to separate the family members before you can help them.

It’s the same principle I saw (and wrote about) when I observed two veteran officers show up at the (very real) home of a young couple who’d been fighting. The man, plainly troubled in all sorts of ways, had punched a hole in the wall, and the woman was frightened. One of the first things that happened upon our arrival was that the female officer—Constable Jaime Peach, who still serves on the Peel Police—took the man downstairs and interviewed him in the lobby. The other officer, Winston Fullinfaw (who was promoted to Staff Sergeant around the time I rode with him), interviewed the woman and learned about her complicated family situation. Had there been more adults in the household, it’s possible that more officers would have been dispatched: When it comes to complicated domestic disputes, sometimes there is no substitute for manpower. A beleaguered lone officer sometimes may become more prone to violence, since he is more likely to lose control of a situation and feel threatened.

This is something we should think about amid claims that society would be more peaceful if we simply got rid of the police, or starved it of funding. We should also think about how such police forces would respond to funding cuts. Training programs would be one of the first things to face the chopping block. Would that make anyone safer?

On May 27, the last day of Korchinski-Paquet’s life, a half-dozen Toronto Police Service officers and an EMS worker responded to a call from her family members, who’d told a 911 operator that there was a fight in their 24th-storey apartment. Because Ontario’s independent Special Investigations Unit (SIU) now has released its report on Korchinski-Paquet’s death, based on camera footage and numerous interviews, we know what happened next. As the Toronto Sun accurately reportedback in early June, Korchinski-Paquet asked to take a bathroom break before accompanying the officers downtown for mental-health treatment. She then barricaded a door, went onto her balcony, and slipped while trying to step onto another balcony, falling 24 floors to her death. Initial reports from family—which suggested that officers had murdered the woman by deliberately pushing her off the balcony—were completely false.

To state the obvious, the death of Korchinski-Paquet is a tragedy. And it would have compounded the tragedy to learn that her death was a racist act of homicide. One might therefore imagine that it would provide Torontonians with at least some meager solace to learn that their police force had acquitted itself without fault, and in a way that reflected the progressive, non-violent methods that are taught in training programs. But in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the riots that followed, it has become a common claim among progressive media and politicians that Canada is every bit as racist as the United States. And in the absence of actual recent Canadian scenes of horror on par with the killing of Floyd, the case of Korchinski-Paquet has been cited as a substitute.

The Toronto Star, which never misses a chance to hustle racism claims to its readers, has run features with titles such as “Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death and anti-Black violence in policing,” informing us “how systemic racism and anti-Black violence continues to play a huge role in Canada.” In a Star op-ed published in early June, opinion writer Noa Mendelsohn Aviv explicitly rejected the proposition that “in order to comment on Regis’s death, we must wait for the result of the Special Investigation Unit’s investigation because we do not yet have the facts and need to ascertain the truth.” (Even when the SIU report came out, the Star could not bear to abandon its anti-police posture, and so now is impugning the credibility of the SIU.) A Maclean’s writer described Korchinski-Paquet’s death as evidence that “Black lives” are “expendable.” The SIU investigation shows nothing of the kind, even if I doubt we will see any retractions.

Perhaps the most appalling response—because it comes from someone who purports to be seeking the job of Canadian prime minister—was from Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s progressive New Democratic Party (NDP). On August 26, after the SIU released its report, Singh blithely claimed that Regis Korchinski-Paquet “died because of police intervention. She needed help and her life was taken instead. The SIU’s decision brings no justice to the family and it won’t prevent this from happening again.” Singh offered no theory as to why the SIU report was wrong, but simply delivered a flat-out blood libel against the officers who’d tried to help Korchinski-Paquet on May 27 (and who are likely traumatized by what happened, as any normal person would be). To repeat: This isn’t some college activist or aggrieved family member. It is the leader of a national Canadian political party who holds the balance of power in Canada’s minority Parliament.

Singh is in some ways a special case, because his NDP, having strayed so far from the unionized blue-collar base on which it was founded, now has been reduced to little more than a social-media outpost catering to college hashtaggers. For weeks, in 2017, he spouted conspiracist nonsense about the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history. More recently, he casually denounced the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a gang of bigots, and then was ejected from Parliament when he accused a fellow Parliamentarian of being racist because he didn’t go along with Singh’s slur. But though comprising an extreme example, Singh is hardly alone. Indeed, the presumption that all police are, by their nature, contaminated by racist malignancy, has become a casually recited starting point in debates about crime and policing.

In regard to the actual goal of reforming police methods—which is the thing that Singh and everyone else pretends to care about—it’s worth taking stock of the damage wrought by this irresponsible approach. About one Torontonian dies every year during encounters with police, this in a city of three-million people. That’s about one tenth the average annual tally for Minneapolis, a city that is one seventh the size of Toronto. One might think that a 70-fold difference in per-capita police-involved deaths might be seen as statistically significant, and be reasonably attributed to the massive investments in training and professionalism that I have personally witnessed in Canadian constabularies. If best practices in Toronto spread to American cities, lives truly could be saved. But instead, progressives such as Singh are far more interested in polluting Twitter with lazy lies and protest applause lines that erase any distinction between policing methods.

Information about the death of Korchinski-Paquet may be found on the web site of Ontario’s SIU. And if there are lessons to be gleaned about how to better respond to potentially violent family crises, our leaders should implement them. But so far, police critics seem far more interested in exploiting this poor woman’s death to advance their own ideological bona fides and defame innocent police officers than with preventing future tragedies.

Source: Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police

The Happiest and the Most Racist: Institutional Racism in Nordic Countries

Of note:

The Nordic countries are well known for topping charts globally in education, equality, and happiness levels. Nordic welfare systems provide citizens with myriad state benefits and free healthcare and education from pre-school to university. However, in The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ “Being Black in the EU” study, Finland has also topped the charts for something far more insidious as well: racism.

Based on the study made in 2018, 63 percent of people of African descent in Finland have experienced racially motivated harassment, compared to a group average of 30 percent in the 12 European Union states surveyed. In both Denmark and Sweden, the number was 41 percent.

Besides the EU survey, another study showed that the coronavirus death rate in Sweden was 220 percent higher among people born outside the country. In an interview with the HPR, Vesa Puuronen, a researcher on racism and sociology professor at the University of Oulu, commented that “it can be partially blamed on the lack of instructions in minority languages. [Without access to adequate information] those individuals could not act in the appropriate way to be spared from the virus.”

A study shows that in Finland views on immigration have become less tolerant in the past five years. In 2015, 65 percent of the Finnish population strongly disagreed with the statement that the “white European race must be prevented from mixing into darker races because otherwise, the European autochthonous population will go extinct”, but in 2020 the number had decreased to 56.

Segregation problems can be found all across Nordic territories. Iceland recently introduced a custom-designed car to carry out border surveillance, which has been used to disproportionately target Albanians and Romanians; such practices have been criticized as racial profiling. In Denmark, the government has compiled a “ghetto list” of neighborhoods for a decade; new proposals of dealing with the neighborhoods have been identified  by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as “hugely troubling and risks heightening racial discrimination against people of migrant origin – further ‘ghettoising’ them.”

In Sweden, segregated neighborhoods have long been considered a major problem, which has also become a tool for the right-wing to oppose immigration. Nationalist parties overall have been on the rise in Europe, and the Nordic countries are at a breaking point. If Nordic nations want to keep taking pride in their progressiveness and egalitarianism, definitive steps against racism must be taken now.

Systemic Racism in Academic and Professional Settings 

Nordic countries have free and well-working education, but there is inequality embedded in the same system that has been admired worldwide. The 2020 OECD report about Finland criticizes that their education is unevenly distributed. In an interview with the HPR, Michaela Moua, a senior officer at the Office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in Finland, recognizes racially motivated guidance in schools, especially in the Finnish as Second Language studies: “Black and Brown students are often advised to take these classes even if Finnish is their first language.”

She adds that “this shows how it is still widely thought that one cannot be a person of color and Finnish at the same time.” Even though the original goal of Finnish as Second Language studies was to support equal language learning, downward-guidance deteriorates the development of academic language, which will affect those students’ later studies. Often, these same students are also advised downwards in student counseling. Women, in particular, are guided towards care working, even if they are planning on going to university. This kind of downward guidance could affect those individuals’ income levels in the future.

In the Nordic countries, university admissions work solely on grades, which leaves no room to account for different student contexts. This creates inequality, as it incorrectly assumes everyone to have the same background and opportunities to receive excellent grades. In the interview, Vesa Puuronen agrees that “the Nordic university admissions system does not include any attempts to level inequalities”.

Going from school to the labor market, language skills is one particularly troubling factor. In an interview with the HPR, Fatim Diarra, Vice-Chair of the Finnish Greens Party, noted that the Finnish labor market is not prepared enough to accept people without perfect language skills to “access working life and become beneficial for society”, especially considering that Finnish, for instance, is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn.

In the interview, Michaela Moua also mentions a research study by Akhlaq Ahmad from the University of Helsinki. Five thousand fake resumes were sent out from five different ethnic groups: Finnish, English, Russian, Iraqi, and Somali with the same qualifications and language proficiency. The research shows that a foreign-sounding name is a significant factor in job applications; local sounding names received callbacks multiple times more likely than foreign-sounding names.

Moua recognizes that there are two levels of discrimination in the Finnish labor market: Horizontal and vertical discrimination. In horizontal discrimination, a specific group gets stuck in a low paying field even when they often have much higher qualifications than the job actually requires.

In vertical discrimination, a person that is discriminated against might be hired for a job, but career progress is unfairly challenging because of racially-motivated factors. The job benefits, like salary and access to training by the employer, are lower, but despite that, the person that is discriminated against is reluctant to report their unfair treatment even if they experience clear racist harassment. “It is so difficult to get the job in the first place so those people do not want to ruffle the waves, so to say, even when their peers left and right are going higher up the ladder”, says Moua.

Hiding Racism Won’t Make It Disappear

Shouldn’t the Nordic states that take such pride in their supposed progressive values be above such behavior? Yet, there is still widespread reluctance to accept racism as an actual problem, which is reflected in the current history curriculum.

It is typically thought that one major reason for racial discrimination is that Nordic societies have long been homogenous, blonde-haired, blue-eyed people who have only gone through rapid demographic changes due to increased immigration since the 1990s. However, the idea of homogenous Nordic societies can be contested. Michaela Moua told the HPR that Finland’s racist history towards Roma and Sami surprises most people because it has not been written about in the school books and it is not part of common knowledge to know about the extreme measures taken to assimilate those minority groups. The Finnish nation is largely considered homogenous, even though there have been people like Tatars, Sami, and Roma for hundreds of years. “Global nationalistic phenomena have affected how our narrative was switched into a strong belief of homogeneity”, comments Moua, but “studying these historical events gives a lot of answers to why things are here how they are now”.

Moua adds that based on the reports sent to the Finnish Ombudsman office, Romas are a group that suffers widespread discrimination in Finland: for instance, restaurants and other services refuse to let them in or they are demanded to pay beforehand. Romas often end up changing their name to get a job or an apartment more easily, even though they have been living in the region for hundreds of years and do not typically consider themselves outsiders. According to Moua, “this is a strong example of ethnic profiling happening here.”

Diarra said in the interview that “it is dangerous to squeeze the situation in the US straight into our context, and this challenges the activists in the Nordic countries to understand how hundreds of years of oppression elsewhere affect our culture.” There are basically no slave owner statues to loot in Helsinki or Oslo, but the thought is prevalent in the region that immigrants come to the Nordic countries just to idle with the state benefits supported by the welfare system.

According to Diarra, studies show that the system currently blocks certain people from truly accessing the supporting net, which entraps people of color in cycles of unemployment and poverty. It must be more widely pondered how the system favors the people born inside the country and fails to give adequate support to minorities who are not able to access the network on their own. Neighborhood segregation has long been a problem in Sweden in particular, but segregation is a threat to the whole region. If that isn’t addressed, the supposed multiculturalism of the region will only be lip service as people become estranged from people from different ethnic backgrounds.

A major problem in the Nordic countries is that racism is not properly recognized. Puuronen noted that “the term [racism] is loosely used and there are people who express racist opinions but get away with them by saying ‘I am not a racist, but…’” In his opinion, an ordinary citizen’s perception and understanding of racism are highly incomplete. According to Diarra, political discussions about racism are outdated and engage in discourse that  “had been done in other countries 50 years ago”. Moua notes that “in Finland racism is understood only as a conscious and deliberate act, but simply not shouting racist slurs on the streets does not make you an anti-racist.” The discourse must be switched from whether there is racism to how to abolish it.

Looking Forward

Recent happenings in the US have brought the issue of racism into wide discourse worldwide, including the Nordic countries. Even though the survey discussed at the beginning of this article shows that trust in police was highest in Finland and happiness appears to be high among immigrants, Black Lives Matter protests in the region demonstrate that things may be more turbulent than the data initially suggests. Policy initiatives to improve workplace equitability have also been spearheaded recently, acknowledging a deep-seated institutional problem. For instance, Helsinki city has introduced an anonymous recruiting policy, meaning that job applications for the city are sent without name, ethnicity, age or gender.

“Globally, we are on the top, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have things to do”, says Michaela Moua. According to her, it is crucial for the Nordic governments to be committed to the human rights programs they are currently pursuing and promote decisions that will affect people’s everyday life in a positive way. Vesa Puuronen adds that more well-conducted and comprehensive research should be made in order to understand the current issues deeper. Those who do not have to experience racism themselves must try to consider how others experience it, and the illusion of Nordic exceptionalism must be broken.

The Nordic countries are in a situation where they still can choose their direction, but action must be taken now and it won’t necessarily be easy. “Our welfare state system truly can ensure opportunities for everyone, but it should be updated and developed further. We are proud of our society and when someone points out flaws, it challenges us to think critically of ourselves, which is extremely difficult”, says Diarra, but “the era of self-reflection has now begun.”

Source: The Happiest and the Most Racist: Institutional Racism in Nordic Countries

University of Toronto research to explore racism in health care during pandemic

Should be an interesting study which hopefully will identify some pragmatic approaches:

A new research project will look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on racialized communities as well as existing biases in the health-care system.

The national project was launched by Roberta Timothy, an assistant professor with the University of Toronto’s Institute for Pandemics.

Timothy says many members of the Black and Indigenous communities already avoid interacting with the health-care system mostly due to experiences with racism and biases.

During a global pandemic, Timothy says that can have grave consequences for the well-being of those communities.

“People will seek help when it’s an emergency and by then it’s too late,” she says. “Because of the bias, because of anti-Black racism, because of violence they experience, their health becomes more at risk.”

Timothy says there’s a need for more data to effectively understand the impact of COVID-19 on racialized communities.

The Ontario government refused to collect race-based data earlier in the pandemic, but it was forced to change course in June. Now it mandates the collection of data around race, income, household size and language when following up with people who’ve been infected with COVID-19.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said the government is engaging with people from racialized communities and other health equity experts regarding the data collection.

“We plan to share findings of this data collection, informed by this engagement,” David Jensen said in an email.

Jensen said the ministry is concerned about the spread of the virus in “certain groups of people and in certain neighbourhoods,” and would welcome additional insights and information about how COVID-19 is affecting racialized communities.

Early data compiled by Toronto Public Health showed that 83 per cent of COVID-19 cases occurred in racialized people. Black people represented 21 per cent of cases in Toronto, but only nine per cent of the city’s population.

“There is growing evidence in North America and beyond that racialized people and people living in lower-income households are more likely to be affected by COVID-19,” said Dr. Christine Navarro,  associate medical officer of health for Toronto.

“While the exact reasons for this have yet to be fully understood, we believe it is related to both poverty and racism.”

Timothy’s project will collect more data about how Black people interact with the health-care system, but also about economic impacts, evictions, support networks and essential work being done by marginalized communities.

“An underlying part of the project is not only to bring better data, but to support the community in strategizing and finding interventions to find how we get through this,” said Timothy.

Rudayna Bahubeshi, a Toronto resident and post-graduate student in public policy, says she has first-hand experience with racism in the health-care system. During a stint in a mood disorder ward when she was 18, Bahubeshi said a nurse mistook her for a 30-year-old patient — the only other Black person in the ward at the time — and tried to make her take the other person’s medication.

Bahubeshi says she argued but was ignored, and believes her race was a factor in the way she was treated by staff. She says the nurse only realized the mistake when the other patient happened to walk by.

In another hospital visit during the pandemic, Bahubeshi says she was taken to a “COVID ward” because she had fever. She says staff would not answer simple questions about whether there were risks involved with using a shared washroom, or about the fact that some staff weren’t wearing PPE.

“The way she (the nurse) was engaging with me was very much that I was the problem,” says Bahubeshi. “When I talked to a doctor afterwards they told me I was fully in the right and that was unacceptable.”

Bahubeshi says experiences like those erode her trust in the public health system and its ability to provide quality care for her. She says more data about the experience of Black people in health care will be a first step in the right direction.

“The fact that we don’t have race-based data is a way we’ve decided that Black communities are not a priority,” said Bahubeshi.

Timothy’s national project is set to begin in a few months, and will involve surveys and focus groups among Black Canadians.

Source: University of Toronto research to explore racism in health care during pandemic

Ontario students say business schools foster hostile environment

While more anecdotal that evidence-based, still of note given that visible minorities are more prevalent than not visible minorities in business and administration studies as shown above:

Business school students in Ontario are sounding the alarm about what they call outright racism from fellow students and a lack of equity and diversity training among faculty.

A number of social media accounts have popped up in recent months, anonymously recounting stories of racism happening in universities across the province.

Schools such as Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and York University in Toronto are among those that have come under fire.

Kelly Weiling Zou, a 20-year-old Singaporean-Chinese student studying commerce at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s, said the racism she witnessed pushed her to create a platform for students to vent about their experiences.

Zou created the Instagram account, stolenbysmith, which has amassed more than 12,000 followers and shared more than 300 stories, ranging from tales about barriers to career opportunities, social ostracism based on students’ backgrounds and encounters with discrimination from faculty.

“The Smith administration has historically failed to respond to students’ call to action in addressing issues of discrimination within the school,” Zou said in an interview. “We can’t change systemic barriers. Only they can as they have the power.”

Meena Waseem, a second-year business student at Queen’s, said her first brush with racism at the school came on her second day of orientation week last fall.

The 19-year-old said one student leader, also in the business program, used the “N-word” in a song to a room full of students.

“Witnessing this was disappointing, and it made me feel unsafe,” Waseem said. “This was the first of many experiences, which made it clear that racism is normalized here.

“For me personally, being a visibly Muslim brown woman at this school is exhausting. Being a lower-income student doubles that exhaustion. I have to consistently advocate for my needs.”

Incidents described as ‘unacceptable and deeply troubling’

Brenda Brouwer, interim dean at the Smith School of Business, said the university is working on addressing concerns raised by its students. She called the incident detailed by Waseem “completely unacceptable and deeply troubling” and said it would be a clear violation of the school’s code of conduct.

“Improving diversity and increasing inclusion is an urgent priority,” Brouwer said. “While progress has been made, we know there is more work to be done, and we will continue to actively foster a culture of inclusion, dignity and respect.”

Aba Mortley, co-chair of the council of anti-racism and equity at Queen’s, said she works as a bridge between faculty and students in order to bring about discussions on campus and in the wider Kingston community.

“There is no denying that these issues regarding Black and Indigenous people are clear and present,” Mortley said.

“No one can say that racism isn’t happening when it is out in the open.”

She said the school is in a better position to work on these discussions now, thanks to the recent momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement.”With all these stories coming out, it is forcing the school to take action,” Mortley said.

Students say schools foster a ‘hostile environment’

Sara Reza, a student at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said discrimination and racism are also present on her campus.

Reza is the founder of a social media account called SilencedatSchulich, which, like Zou’s account, highlights the stories of Black, Indigenous and students of colour at York’s business school.

“Business programs rarely integrate diversity and inclusion, which fails to address the persistent inequality that exists in our communities and worldwide,” she said.

Reza said business university programs foster a “hostile environment” in which topics of privilege, inequality and race are rarely brought up in the classroom.

Humera Dasu, a third-year York student, said she was left feeling uneasy when a white professor and group of students allegedly made inappropriate comments when discussing Islam.”The professor implied to a class of 50 students that she thinks the religion is oppressive to women,” said Dasu, 20.

“I was deeply offended and hurt.… Islamophobia has been normalized to the point that such a comment can be made in a classroom environment.”

‘More needs to be done,’ says interim dean

Detlev Zwick, interim dean at Schulich School of Business, said the school is aware of concerns brought forward recently by students and graduates.

“The Schulich School of Business does not tolerate or excuse discrimination and racism of any kind. As one of the most diverse business schools in North America, Schulich has a long tradition of actively encouraging and supporting inclusivity and diversity,” he said.

“Obviously, more needs to be done, and we have already begun taking action in various ways to ensure greater awareness surrounding issues of racism, especially anti-Black racism, as well as sexism and discrimination.”

Zwick said the school is also currently in talks with other leading business schools in Ontario regarding several joint initiatives to tackle barriers for Black and Indigenous students, particularly from high schools in economically disadvantaged communities.

Source: Ontario students say business schools foster hostile environment

New controversy flares up over Lynn Beyak’s Senate-appointed anti-racism training

Hard to see this ending:

The “flames of negativity” that were stirred up by Lynn Beyak’s racist statements as a senator are being “reignited” by a controversy at the University of Manitoba, according to a residential school survivor.

Garnet Angeconeb questions the suitability of the man tasked with overseeing Beyak’s second attempt at cultural awareness and sensitivity training after Jonathan Black-Branch quietly left his post as dean at the University of Manitoba.

The university is not saying why. In an email to CBC news, a spokesperson said Black-Branch is no longer employed by the University of Manitoba and that his leave began on June 5, but would not elaborate.

Black-Branch was also removed from his position on the governing body of the Law Society of Manitoba, a position reserved for the dean of the law school.

Both moves speak to the need for a wider probe into the handling of Beyak’s discipline and the qualifications of the man tasked with educating her, said Angeconeb who is from Lac Seul First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

“The issue with Lynn Beyak continues to throw flames on a fire that was under control,” Angeconeb said of the harm the on-going saga is causing. “It stirs up unresolved trauma for survivors.”

Beyak, who has publicly praised residential schools as “well-intentioned”, was first suspended from the Senate in 2019. The move came after she declined to remove letters from her website that described First Nations people as lazy and inept and refused to apologize for posting them.

She was ordered to complete education and training to improve her understanding and awareness of Indigenous issues before returning to her senate seat.

Beyak failed her first attempt, when the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres said Beyak created an “unsafe learning environment” with false claims to a Metis identity and other comments. Beyak denied making those claims.

In May, the Senate appointed Black-Branch as an “eminently qualified” person to design and deliver a new training program for Beyak.

After delivering a total of 24 hours of training, by video, Black-Branch concluded that “Senator Beyak is now better equipped ‘for approaching her professional work and her personal beliefs'”, according to the report of the Senate ethics committee, in June.

Senators are set to discuss the report on September 22.

‘Racism is a disease’

“There are a lot of questions about how this training was delivered, how meaningful it was,” said Danielle Morrison, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Remove Lynn Beyak from Senate, of which Angeconeb is also a member.

Residential school survivors should have the final say when it comes to determining whether Beyak’s training was a success, she said.

“Racism is a disease. It is one of the biggest pandemics affecting our world right now,” Morrison said. “This is a moment when people should ask themselves ‘am I on the right side of history?’

“How do you measure someone’s success in being an anti-racist? That assessment has already been made by survivors.”

‘Political fluff’

Angeconeb said Beyak could show her training was a success through her actions. For him that means another apology, beyond the carefully scripted ones she gave in the Senate.

“It needs to come from somewhere in her home-town of Dryden, in front of Anishinaabe people,” he said. “Otherwise these are just apologies of convenience to save her Senate seat. It’s just political fluff.”

After decades of anti-racism work and advocacy on behalf of survivors, Angeconeb said he is heartened that residential schools are “at the forefront of the conversation” about reconciliation in Canada.

But he said “side-bar issues” such as Beyak’s behaviour and the on-going legal wrangling over compensation for survivors of St. Anne’s residential school are “really hurtful.”

“I continue to be upset and I continue to be angered by that,” he said.

Source: New controversy flares up over Lynn Beyak’s Senate-appointed anti-racism training

How white guilt and white atonement strips BIPOC of their agency

On the risks of stereotypes and labelling groups without recognizing the individual characteristics and perspectives of individuals:

In 2004, when I was three, my family moved from India to Vancouver. As a young, turban-wearing immigrant living within a white majority, I was the target of bullying throughout elementary school.

Most of the bullying happened on school bus rides, where I was relentlessly teased by a group of older white kids who saw my turban as a cosmetic oddity. Some of the boys used to jump up and slap the knot at the top of my turban (my “joora”), while the others laughed.

Given the racism and trauma I experienced, it would be understandable for me to adapt a Pavlovian response to white people—associating whiteness with privilege.

After the death of George Floyd rekindled attention on race relations across the globe, the notion of “white privilege” has dominated the mainstream discourse on race relations. The basic premise is that all white people carry an unearned privilege in society that has serious societal ramifications. But attributing white privilege to an entire group of people is ethically wrong. It strips human beings of their individualism, in favour of viewing them based on the amount of melanin in their skin, effectively painting each person from a particular ethnic lineage with one broad brush.

It is foolish to claim that negative stereotypes about Black people, Asians, Jews and other minority groups don’t exist. They do. But the solution to this problem isn’t to reciprocate stereotypes about white people. The solution is to diminish the degrading reach of racial bigotry. And this solution should not include the new-found notion of “white saviourism,” defined as white people having to atone for their whiteness in some way in order to help minorities, who are otherwise trapped in a system of white supremacy and institutionalized racism.

This perception also hurts minorities, stripping them of their agency and labelling them with the face of racial victimhood. Minorities are no longer the agents of their own destiny, but contingent on the white man to save and restore their humanity.

Recently, several videos of white protesters bowing ritualistically before Black people and atoning for their sin of being white have circulated on social media. The footage also shows white people washing the feet of Black activists, as well as white protesters raising their hands while cultishly chanting anti-white mantras.

This performative white guilt sends a strong message of powerlessness to minorities, and in turn a perverse sense of superiority to whites. Esteemed Black economist and Brown University professor Glenn Loury expressed this concern at a 2019 panel event focused on barriers to Black progress. When he was challenged with the notion that white people’s racist attitudes needed to be resolved before Black people could address disadvantageous circumstances , he remarked, “You just made white people, the ones who we say are the implacable, racist, indifferent, don’t-care oppressors, into the sole agents of your own delivery.”

I have personally experienced the reductive epistemology of white privilege. On multiple occasions, white friends have tried to educate me about how society favours white people and systematically oppresses people of colour like me.

Such a position is absurd, given a 2019 Statistics Canada study titled “Intergenerational education mobility and labour market outcomes: Variation among the second generation of immigrants in Canada,” which found that second-generation South Asians earn higher incomes, represent a higher percentage of workers in high-skill occupations and have higher rates of post-secondary education compared to whites. Chinese, Filipinos, Arabs, Japanese, Koreans and other minority groups in Canada find similar success. Whatever societal disadvantage the melanin in my skin has conferred upon people who look like me remains deeply futile.

The West has a long history of racial stereotyping and marginalizing certain ethnic groups. Throughout the 20th century, Indigenous people were viewed and depicted as “alcoholics,” “lazy,” “wild” and “thuggish.” These stereotypes perpetuated dehumanizing policies such as residential schools, which white-washed Indigenous culture. Other groups, such as eastern Europeans, Slavic immigrants and Jews, were also deemed inferior and suffered systemic racism.

In the U.S., Black men have been caricatured as “criminal and dangerous” because of disproportionate rates of violent crime in the ’70s and ’80s. Many of these toxic stereotypes persist today, but we recognize they are wrong. We must treat Black people, Indigenous people, Asians and Jews as individuals. Yet white people seem to be exempt from this logic, since they all have white privilege.

Sure, informing a white person that they are privileged doesn’t have the same discriminatory sting as telling an Indian man that he should go back to his own country. But these pernicious stereotypes exist on a spectrum of racial essentialism that divides people along trivial and immutable lines of race. This framework creates an “us vs. them” or “oppressed vs. oppressor” dynamic, which causes division rather than unity.

Perhaps ironically, both progressive anti-racists and white supremacists fail to see people who look like me as equal to whites. Both groups have radically different intentions and beliefs, but equally take us a step backwards when it comes to race relations. As a society we have collectively condemned the evils of racism and white supremacy (even though both still exist), but until we reject racial stereotypes across the board, our society will always be fragmented by race.

Source: How white guilt and white atonement strips BIPOC of their agency

Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

Very soon is a relative concept to politicians. For the opposition, the shorter the better, even if largely symbolic.

For government, which actually has the responsibility to develop, implement and manage policies and programs, a longer timeframe is involved except under exceptional circumstances such as the various COVID support measures.

The symbolic is easy and can often be meaningful. But tackling long-term structural issues is hard and requires longer-term commitment and effort:

It has been seven weeks since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised action “very soon” to address systemic racism in Canadian policing and other institutions.

For Matthew Green, an NDP MP and member of the cross-party Parliamentary Black Caucus, “very soon” is now long past due — and can’t come soon enough.

That’s especially the case, he says, after more than 100 Liberal MPs and half of Trudeau’s cabinet signed a declaration from the Black caucus in mid-June that called for a wide range of reforms.

“If these ministers are not serious, then they ought not have signed on,” Green told the Star by phone on Wednesday.

“What we’re asking for is not radical. It is actually basic justice principles of applying policy and the legal system in an equitable way,” he said.

Responding to questions from the Star on Wednesday, Trudeau spokesperson Alex Wellstead provided a quote from the prime minister after the Liberal cabinet retreat in early July. Trudeau pledged at the time that his ministers would craft a “work plan” for the summer to build “strong policies” to tackle racism. This would include reforms to police and the justice system, improved protections for temporary foreign workers and legislation to expand First Nations policing of their own communities, Trudeau said.

In 2019, the Liberal government unveiled a $45-million strategy to tackle racism in the public service and federal policies. The party also promised during the election last year to increase funding for the strategy.

But in mid-June of this year, Trudeau pledged further action on systemic racism would come “very soon.” At the time, much of the Western world was roiling from widespread demonstrations denouncing police brutality and racism against Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.

In Canada, demonstrations were fuelled by a series of incidents in which people died during interactions with police. These included Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old First Nations woman shot and killed on June 4 during a wellness check at her apartment in Edmunston, N.B., and 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman who died in Toronto after falling from an apartment balcony during a police visit.

On June 16, the Parliamentary Black Caucus released its declaration that called on governments to “act immediately” on a wide range of demands to address systemic racism in Canada. The document called for Ottawa to end mandatory minimum jail sentences, create programs to support businesses owned by Black Canadians and improve the collection and release of race-based data. It also called for more Black and Indigenous judges, and to shift money from police budgets to health and social services.

The document was signed by at least 25 cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti.

Greg Fergus, a Liberal MP from Quebec who is a member of the Black caucus, said Black Canadians have been waiting for decades for reforms and that he is confident the Trudeau government will take significant steps to address racism. He said he has spoken with Trudeau directly about the issue and that he has been assured actions are going to be taken — though he declined to discuss specific plans because he doesn’t want to “scoop” his own government.

“I know that everybody would like this to be done yesterday, but I’m glad they’re taking the time to get it right,” he said.

“For the first time in my life I actually really feel that, Wow, we’re going to get at this, we’re really going to give this a real say — because Canadians will want things to be done.”

Green was less optimistic, and said he believes the Liberal government has already missed opportunities to implement change. He said several demands in the Black caucus declaration could have been pursued immediately, including the elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentencing and amnesty for people convicted for cannabis-related crimes before it was legalized.

The federal government was also criticized this spring for delaying its promisedresponse to the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which probed the systemic causes of disproportionate violence against these groups and concluded in June 2019 with a list of demands for change.

Green said he will be looking to Aug. 12, when the House of Commons is next scheduled to sit, as the next chance for the Liberals to follow up with the action they promised.

“This government can move immediately — immediately — within weeks to award their insiders and their friends a contract that would have resulted in the benefit of $43 million,” Green said, referring to the controversy over the Liberal government’s decision to outsource a student grant program to WE Charity.

“They did that without any drawn out or protracted incremental approach. So why can’t they make those same investments in the Black community?” he said.

Source: Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

If Corporations Really Want to Address Racial Inequality, Here Are 9 Things That Actually Make a Difference

A few articles of interest regarding racial inequality and options to address it. While largely focussed on Black inequalities and disparities, broadly applicable to most minority groups.

Starting with the most concrete by Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. While some of the recommendations pertain to the private sector, some are more broadly applicable:

Since protests over the killing of George Floyd erupted across the country, I’ve received numerous calls from corporate CEOs who want to know what they should do, and where can they quickly donate $10 million dollars to advance the cause of racial justice?

The first thing I do is remind them of Martin Luther King Jr.’s caution that philanthropy must not be used to obscure the economic injustices that make it necessary. The frustration and rage we’re seeing across the country aren’t just about a racist system of policing.

It’s also about original sins–a genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Black Africans whose stolen land and labor built this country’s wealth, enriching countless white people and their descendants in the process. It’s about the predations of modern-day capitalism that have allowed a privileged few to hoard the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth, effectively consigning Black folks to the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

This time the usual corporate playbook–issue a statement, gather a group of Black leaders for a conference call, give a hefty grant to the Urban League, resume business as usual–isn’t going to work. Here are 9 things every corporate leader can do to improve Black lives.

1. Remake your C suite

Change starts at the top. Do you have African-American board members? Black executives in your leadership team? If you do, are they token appointments, or do they have real power to recommend changes that would make your company more racially equitable?

2. Hire and advance more Black people

As leaders of large corporations, you have the power to transform Black lives immediately, simply by hiring and promoting more of us. Blind tests show that when identical resumes are submitted for the same job – one with a white-sounding name, the other with a Black-sounding one – the white applicant receives a callback 50% more often. Taking racial inclusion seriously means telling your managers that they cannot go forward with a hire or a promotion, at any level, unless the candidate pool is racially diverse.

3. Get involved in the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative

One legacy of the “tough on crime” era is that about one-third of American adults now have a criminal record, mostly for minor crimes that nonetheless hamper their ability to get a job. Black people are hugely overrepresented in that group, in significant part because of the kind of over-policing that sparked today’s protests.

That’s why the Society of Human Resource Management has urged employers to take the Getting Talent Back to Work Pledge as part of the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative by employing qualified job applicants with criminal backgrounds. Five years ago, the Ford Foundation committed to hire 10 formerly incarcerated business associates every year, and they are among our most dedicated employees.

4. Pay your employees a living wage

The federal minimum wage–$2.13 per hour for tipped workers and $7.25 per hour for others–is not a living wage. In 2016, nearly half of government public assistance went to people who worked full-time but still fell below the federal poverty line.

Black workers make up about 11% percent of the workforce, but 38% of Black workers who now work for the minimum wage would get a raise. Raising the pay of the workers at the bottom of your scale would disproportionately help people of color.

Commit to paying your workers a living wage of at least $15 per hour, and more in higher-cost parts of the country.

5. Provide a safe and healthy workplace

Valuing Black lives in a pandemic also means doing everything possible to create a safe workplace. Lack of adequate health insurance coverage are big reasons Black, Latinx and Native American people have contracted the coronavirus at a disproportionally higher rate than white Americans, with Black people dying of COVID-19 at a rate of almost 2.5 times the rate of white people. Does your company manipulate the schedules of your workers to fall just below the threshold for health coverage? Does it label people independent contractors even if they spend the bulk of their days working for you? If so, this is what advocates mean when they talk about structural racism.

6. Provide paid sick and family leave

Black workers often cannot afford to take time off to care for a newborn or sick family member. The lack of paid sick leave is another reason so many people of color have suffered higher rates of illness and death from COVID-19. If there were ever a question about whether paid leave is a moral issue, the pandemic should have laid it to rest.

7. Reconsider executive compensation

You might be asking, “but where am I going to find the resources to give my workers more?” Here, CEOs would do well to look in the mirror. According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978, while the salary of the average worker has increased only 12%. The economy would suffer zero harm if CEOs were paid less.

We know this, because many of those same executives are steering their excess wealth into philanthropic foundations, which have proliferated in the past two decades as their compensation has skyrocketed. While that charitable instinct benefits some of my foundation’s favorite causes, it would be better for the economy and for racial equity if more of that largesse were directed toward workers.

8. Advocate for a more progressive tax code

Standing up for Black lives means investing in the essential building blocks of social equality, from adequately funded schools to universal health care and affordable housing. These things require government action at scale.

Moving money from police budgets should be just the start. What we really need is a progressive tax code that will reduce income inequality, shore up our crumbling infrastructure, create a proper public health system and provide the social safety net that people need in a crisis. Five months into a pandemic that has shuttered the economy, Canada is subsidizing wages at 75% of full salary, while Americans are left to queue at food banks, wondering whether the next unemployment check will be their last.

Instead of deploying your lobbyists only on issues of narrow self-interest, detail them to advocate for tax reform and the expansion of social programs for poor people.

9. Advocate for shareholder reforms

But I hear you saying, “I have public shareholders to whom I’m accountable. Supporting tax policies that work against my company’s bottom line will only drive down our share price.” Yes, and this is why the current model of shareholder-driven capitalism that puts quarterly profits over people is bad for the long-term social and economic health of the country.

The Business Roundtable acknowledged as much last year, when 181 CEOs signed a statement revising the purpose of a corporation as one that benefits customers, employees, supplies and communities – not just shareholders. This was an important first step. Now, companies must turn that resolution into action, by committing to the kinds of tangible changes in practice and policy that will reduce inequality.

The uncomfortable truth is that if what you’re changing in your corporate practices doesn’t affect your bottom line, you’re not doing enough.

So to my friends in the Fortune 500: while the millions in onetime donations are appreciated, a permanent commitment to reducing racial inequality through changes in your own practices would be more meaningful. Outsourcing the work of racial justice isn’t sufficient when a broken system of capitalism has produced indefensible levels of wealth for owners and daily insecurity for workers. The corporate sector has the responsibility–and the ability–to act now.

Source: If Corporations Really Want to Address Racial Inequality, Here Are 9 Things That Actually Make a Difference

On the more abstract and process side, two examples starting with the call by Mireille Apollon, Sébastien Goupil and David Schimpky of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO:

Earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, put out a call for feedback on efforts underway to achieve the objectives of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

Given the dramatic events and protests that have marked the year so far, one could say that little has been done to advance the spirit of this important Decade. Unfortunately, it remains too-little known among nation states and institutions.

United Nations international years and decades are not celebratory; they are calls to concerted action on issues that need attention over a long period. The International Decade for People of African Descent expresses an urgent need for states to eradicate systemic racism and ensure recognition, justice, and development for Black people and communities.

For some time now, the UN has done its part to sound the alarm and remind us that our world faces a crisis of racism and racial injustice. In 2001, it convened the Durban Conference, which was intended to unite the world around fighting racism, but was overshadowed by strife among the participants and the 9/11 attacks. The conference nonetheless ended with the adoption of a vigorous program of action to be implemented by member states to fight racism and discrimination.

This conference was also the origin of flagship initiatives, such as the creation by UNESCO of the International Coalition of Sustainable and Inclusive Cities, which are across the world. This network includes our own Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities, whose principal objective is expressly to fight racism and discrimination.

The conference also led to the creation of a Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which looked at the situation in Canada in 2016. Their well-researched and thoughtful report should be mandatory reading for every Canadian. It concludes:

“Despite the reputation for promoting multiculturalism and diversity and the positive measures taken by the national and provincial governments …, the Working Group is deeply concerned by the structural racism that lies at the core of many Canadian institutions and the systemic anti-Black racism that continues to have a negative impact on the human rights situation of African Canadians.”

An important step was taken in 2018, when Canada recognized the International Decade for People of African Descent, and announced significant funding programs and the creation of an Anti-Racism Secretariat. But let’s return again to the question from the high commissioner: how much progress have we seen over the past five years?

The Decade has been embraced by many Black organizations and activists, and there have been remarkable strides in Nova Scotia, which last year launched a historic action plan related to the International Decade. The Michaëlle Jean Foundation and the Federation of Black Canadians convened historic summits to mobilize Black communities and propose concrete actions.

Our Commission has undertaken new partnerships, including working with the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migrations on two special editions of Canadian Diversity dedicated to the voices of African descent leaders, thinkers, and activists. In addition, we are working with the UNESCO Chair on the Prevention of Radicalization leading to Violence and Project SOMEONE on a recently launched toolkit to tackle racial and social profiling.

That said, the International Decade remains largely overlooked. The past few weeks have demonstrated that anti-Black racism is alive and well, and not just south of the border. Black Canadians are right to demand real action, and governments and intuitions everywhere need to respond. We need to implement policies and significant measures that promote diversity and inclusion, and address racism and discrimination in all their forms.

Let’s have the courage in 2020 to go beyond grand words and promises. This is the time for action. The way forward is clear, we just need to take it.

Source: A roadmap already exists to advance the rights of Black communities

Lastly, similarly efforts by DND and the CAF to address anti-Black racism are heavy on process:

Addressing anti-Black racism in the ranks of the Canadian military is a matter of national security, with recent bad press likely to dampen recruitment, says the head of the Federal Black Employee Caucus.

“For a long time this work has been piecemeal and people kind of do it at the corner of their desk, but now there is such a higher level of importance that [is] being put on it and getting it right,” said Richard Sharpe, founder of the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC).

The Department of National Defence convened a meeting on July 27 to have its management “listen and learn directly from visible minority defence team members about the lived experience and systematic barriers that they and other colleagues face on a daily basis,” according to a July 28 statementfrom outgoing chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance and national defence deputy minister Jody Thomas.

The meeting came after a June 19 letter that Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas sent to DND members apologizing for the delay in addressing the outpouring of response to the police killing of George Floyd and reports of systematic racism within DND and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Those members of DND who presented gave three recommendations for the Canadian military to implement: establish a secretariat for members of DND to report on racial discrimination, make clear who is responsible for implementing policies and processes to tackle racism, and align DND with the rest of the public service to collect disaggregated data and renew the Employment Equity Act.

“I don’t want to fawn all over them, but I think they’ve been doing a very good job of addressing some of these issues—at least at the senior levels of the organization—head on,” said Mr. Sharpe, who took part in the July 27 meeting. “I appreciate the fact that we had a very frank and open discussion about race and anti-Black racism.”

He said changes to the Employment Equity Act are “long overdue.” The act, which was passed in the 1980s, outlines four classes of people that receive special protections: persons with disabilities, women, Indigenous people, and visible minorities.

“It refers to Black and racialized people as visible minorities and our experiences are masked within that visible minority term,” Mr. Sharpe said.

During the meeting, Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas wrote, the leadership of the Canadian military heard about the need to “re-imagine and re-design,” so the new policies work for those without power within the structure of DND.

“The experiences they shared exposed persistent and deeply painful occurrences of aggressively racist behaviours, micro-aggressions, and failures of leadership to address both,” Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas’ statement read.

The statement also referred to the creation of a DND Black Employee Network, something Mr. Sharpe called “really important.”

He noted that FBEC has been pushing for the establishment of Black employee networks—which create a safe place to gather to establish recommendations and have their own voice within institutions to push for change as a distinct group—across the public service.

“So with DND committing to do this, I think it gives great space for this to happen and a focus that we’ve never had. There’s never been a focus on Black employees in the public service,” Mr. Sharpe said.

The DND Black Employee Network is made up of both military and civilian members, who can “come together to share their experiences and discuss ways to respond to anti-Black racism within the Defence Team,” according to a DND spokesperson, who added that the group’s mandate is provide space for Black members of DND and the Canadian Forces to “explore, discuss, and create ways to tackle anti-Black racism.”

It will be made up of departmental volunteers who will act as a consultative body for senior DND and military leaders.

“It really does continue to feel like historic times here, with all that’s been happening, and there’s been movement on this work [that the FBEC] has been pushing for two years,” said Mr. Sharpe.

Given the new territory of DND’s initiative, Mr. Sharpe said it’s difficult to establish concrete timelines, but added he’s heard from DND leadership that they want to enact changes “very quickly.”

“This is a national security threat for DND. …The bad press, the reputational damage impacts on the ability on the organization to recruit people,” he said. “So I think they’re trying to get this stuff in place as soon as possible, addressing any kind of reputational damage that they may be experiencing due to the ongoing incidents of racism within the ranks and intolerance in the various defence [branches].”

Canadian Forces College professor Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military, said the networks provide a way for individuals to have a voice and have their concerns illuminated.

“In the current context, there is more of an interest at the senior leadership level in listening to [advisory groups] and hearing what’s going on,” he said.

Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas said in their statement that National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) is “fully seized with addressing racial discrimination” within DND, adding that he “expects bold, decisive action” from both DND and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Mr. Sajjan told CTV last month that during his early days in the Armed Forces he realized “how intense racism can be.”

“I remember one person … saying to me, ‘I let you join my military.’ Just that position of power and privilege that he was throwing in my face, it just upset me so much,” he said.

Prof. Okros said the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and Canada have given an increased impetus to diversity and inclusion work that started with Marie Deschamps’ 2015 report on sexual assault in the Canadian military, which led the Canadian government to launch Operation Honour to tackle sexual assault and misconduct.

“It’s moved it up a notch in terms of the level of attention and focus on it,” he said, adding that Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas have made it clear this is how they want to lead.

Prof. Okros said now that the senior leaders have held a meeting to listen, the big question is: what have they heard and what is going to be done?

A DND spokesperson said implementation timelines and funding have not yet been determined.

“As we work towards establishing the appropriate framework and resources for this critical initiative, we are continuing to be open and transparent with the entire Defence Team,” the spokesperson said.

The recommendations being put forward are “good first steps,” Prof. Okros said, adding that there will be individuals who will be expecting more to be done to fully achieve what’s required.

“I think they’re definitely going to be interested in moving as quickly as they can,” he said. “It likely is going to result in some staged or staggered implementation, recognizing that in some of these cases there are legal issues involved and it takes time, and there’s a requirement to be prudent if you are going to make changes that have legal consequences.”

“Creating the secretariat, clarifying roles and responsibilities are things that can be moved forward fairly quickly,” said Prof. Okros. “I think part of what the next steps are is going to depend on having some legal review and some policy review to make sure they get it right.”

Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas called the July 27 meeting “just a start.”

“We will be meeting with the other defence advisory groups to hear their stories on discrimination and systematic barriers. We know there is so much more to do, and that we will be judged based on our actions and results, not our sentiments and promises.”

Source: ‘It’s a national security threat’: DND launches anti-Black racism initiative