Racism – what’s our responsibility?
Enough for All 2.0, Calgary’s poverty reduction strategy, is owned by Calgarians. We recognize that racism is a root cause of poverty. Many are asking what they can do? As the work around racism continues, it is more than just talking, there is work to do. May we suggest that we stand unified, boldly declaring an end to racism by adjusting our assumptions, our language and our actions. We acknowledge that everyone is on their own journey, but there are things that everyone can do.
Education is one of the first steps. Prejudice, hate and discrimination are learned, consequently we have an obligation to educate ourselves and those in our sphere of influence. There is a range of resources from Calgary Public Library reading and film lists, to engaging with different perspectives on social media or in our communities, to seeking out local Black voices and organizations (see Calgary Foundation’s list to get you started).
In Calgary, our work involves being allies, actively using our privilege to dismantle systems that have allowed racism and injustice to incubate and spread throughout the social fabric of our society.
This work requires acknowledgement of our past and present so we can seek out a better future. It requires opening ourselves up to understanding other people’s experiences – to understand that we’re all suffering and uncomfortable, but to consider the fact that we’re not all having the same experience.
For any one person to have a positive impact, we must listen, think, and act. Answers to racism, prejudice, discrimination and hate will not come from government or law enforcement alone. Solutions will come as we open our minds and hearts to understanding those whose lives are different than our own, as we see each other as equal; as we adhere to the golden rule and treat people the way we want to be treated.
We call on people everywhere to join us in a journey of not just understanding, but a journey of overcoming. As citizens of Calgary, we need to abandon attitudes of prejudice and be united in a shared vision where everyone thrives. When we see racist comments, actions or ideas within ourselves or within our sphere of influence, we need to name it. Call racism out, so we can move through the heaviness, the emotional weight that systemic racism puts on black lives as we operate with engrained sentiments of ‘you don’t belong’ or ‘your value is less than.’ Call things out. Use words for healing so we can move forward.
It is critical that we build bridges of understanding and not divisive, segregating walls. Everyone can do something to overcome prejudice, hate and discrimination. Empathy is like a muscle; it needs to be exercised. There is an urgency and an opportunity to move past words and make the long, difficult, yet worthwhile, journey to change.
Good work is bitter, but the sweetness of even the possibility of overcoming is beautiful.
Open letter A Call to Courage, Jay Pitter – author and placemaker
Calgary-based statistics and reports: