By Gabrielle Bonifacio, Communications Assistant and Aftab Erfan, Director, Dialogue and Conflict Engagement
Due to COVID-19, we have all made difficult, yet necessary, changes to our routines in order to flatten the curve. Unfortunately, while waiting for the number of cases to fall, reports of xenophobia and anti-Asian, particularly anti-Chinese, racism continue to rise in the region, nationally and globally. Furthermore, violent incidents of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism persist across North America and beyond. Like the virus, racism is pervasive and harmful; it is something we must consciously make an effort to fight in our daily lives. In light of these incidents, we wanted to share a few tips to help you tackle racism and stand in solidarity with those affected:
1. Take an active role.
What is worse than being a target of racism is to be a target of racism while others witness what’s happening and do nothing. Whether it’s on the 99 B-line or on a Zoom hangout, your willingness to take an active role demonstrates your care and responsibility. Intervening does not necessarily mean confronting the racist act or calling it out. Depending on the situation and your feeling of safety, you could employ any of the 5Ds of bystander intervention: Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, or Direct.
2. Listen to your IBPOC colleagues, friends and teachers.
While it can be important to come forward when you see or hear someone making a racist remark, it’s equally important to know when to step back. Follow the lead of the person being targeted instead of playing the hero who knows best. If they don’t want you to call the police, don’t. If they ask for an IBPOC-only space to debrief, step out. If you make a mistake and someone comes forward or corrects you, don’t get defensive; instead, actively listen and show that you hear them by following their lead in conversations where you have no lived experience. As Maya Angelou would say: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
3. Seek out diverse media.
When writing papers, we’re often burdened with the dreaded task of citing our sources. But as Dan Zanes points out, how often is our news coming from the same place? The next time you’re looking for a think piece on COVID-19 or a new show to add to your Netflix queue, consider the importance of representation and ask yourself Who is making what you’re consuming? Engaging with media that represent and are created by people who are different from us is a good way to expand our perspectives.
Fighting racism means both learning new ways of thinking and unlearning harmful ideas that have been taught to us. Thankfully, there are many free, accessible resources that can help you educate yourself on these issues.
5. Check yourself.
It’s important to first examine our own thoughts before we act. Because racism is so ingrained in our systems and institutions, we all have our own biases and privileges. Rather than staying in the same mindset, work on understanding your privilege and use it to support IBPOC communities. If you catch yourself reverting to stereotypes, take a moment to stop and deconstruct your biases (e.g. Am I making this judgment based on the individual or based on negative portrayals I’ve seen in movies?).
Fighting racism is a process that can often be emotional, frustrating and riddled with mistakes. However, no one expects racism to be solved with any single action or person. Racism is a challenge that must be accepted by everyone in order to be eradicated and addressed at the individual and institutional levels; this hard but necessary work starts with our schools, businesses, communities and ourselves.