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Some thoughts on the US Election

13 Nov

The US election is devastating for so many reasons – not just the results, but the whole campaign.

Beyond the US president elect, it has shown us the underbelly of what seems like half of American voters: Racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy… But Trump didn’t cause this; he merely said out loud what many were thinking and feeling, and gave them permission to say it out loud as well. These sentiments are not new – to the US or any other country. I’m not a history scholar but I know that US history is rife with entrenched and systemic racism and sexism, and many of the other isms have a trajectory that is similar, if not as long. Other countries are not innocent to these same intolerances.

Yes, there have been advancements – some big, some not so big – in human rights, equity, civil rights. But what is clear from this election (and which should be a wake up call globally) is that these advances have not reached everyone’s hearts. We have managed, in some way, and in some places – not all and not always well – to make at least expressing the isms and phobias unacceptable. Anti discrimination laws, human rights codes and acts, hate crime laws, and movements like the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter help to raise awareness and consciousness and create a standard of how we should be together – or what we should strive for. This election race and outcome has undermined these efforts and advances by normalizing and sanctioning overt hatred and violence – specifically Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, and people who identify as LGBT.

The horror of this election campaign and victory is that in addition to systemic racism and oppression – which is demoralizing and exhausting to live with as marginalized people, with far-reaching negative economic, social, health (and other) outcomes – there is now an even stronger threat to actual physical safety and the devastating personal experiences of racism, xenophobia (etc) and oppression.

While at least part of the US population reels from the results and the reality that the Trump victory suggest for their country for the next 4 years, there is another danger beyond the US borders: smugness.

Many of us in Canada are sighing with relief and saying how happy we are that we don’t live there as we point south towards the Canada-US border. I’m sure these sentiments are echoed in other countries as well. But consider this: it wasn’t long ago that we had a prime minister who successfully whipped up a national fear of Muslims, contributing to the rise of Islamophobia in this country. And we have legitimized racial profiling in many police departments through a practice called carding. The KKK exists in this country too. And although we have good LGB human rights, trans rights across the country are not consistent. Indigenous populations living on reserves are dealing with conditions that rival those of some developing countries. And women still don’t have adequate representation in positions of power. Although our current prime minister made sure the house of commons was 50% women “because it was 2015”; it wasn’t “2015” for Black people, or Indigenous people.

 Hatred and bigotry are not reserved for our US brothers and sisters. They may be showing theirs in fuller force and for all to see these days, but if we point our fingers at them, and think we are better, we miss the opportunity for self-reflection and our own healing – and to make the communities, cities and the countries we live in better for everyone.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Police Accountability and What it Tells us About Unconscious Bias

29 Jan

I have been listening to and reading the news about the guilty verdict (attempted murder) of Constable Forcillo here in Toronto, in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim.

I’m probably the last person to have seen the video, and it struck me how many shots were fired as Sammy lay there on the streetcar floor. So awful…
For communities and people who have been shining a light on (and experiencing) police violence, this verdict might suggest that tides may be starting to change…we’ll see.

One thing is for sure – there is a lot of work to do to get at the root of the problem and create sustainable change.

On CBCs Ontario Today this week, a retired RCMP officer called in to say that in 35 years of service he only pulled his gun once – to shoot a deer. He was concerned about the information that Constable Forcillo had pulled his gun 12 times in 3 years of service. This, the caller said, is a red flag that didn’t seem to have been addressed – at great cost.

So here is my thought for today:
As we recognize more and more the impact of unconscious bias on our actions, we have to also recognize the resulting impact of unconscious bias on marginalized communities. By virtue of how bias works, these groups will be impacted the most, and in the most negative ways.
If we couple this recognition with the deadly force that police are capable of (given they have tasers and guns) it should be obvious that we need to do some very deep examination of the training, the culture and the accountability within the policing system.

But make no mistake, policing is not the only institution that needs examination and change. All service organizations are in a position where unconscious bias means they see certain groups differently and the results can be devastating.

It’s a tangled web.
Messages about who has value (and who doesn’t) are everywhere; we swim in the soup of unconscious bias every day. And, it’s unconscious.
But we can, and we must move beyond talking about it, to examining how it impacts service, and then putting systems in place that help us shine a light on it, keep it on our radar, mitigate it, and work towards making a positive difference in how we see and serve populations. Particularly marginalized populations.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
Interested in how the power of inclusion can transform your organization? Send me an email!

Radio Show Host – Creating Families
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The violence we see isn’t the only violence there is

15 Nov

If you google “violence around the world on Friday November 13” you will see pages and pages of links on the attacks in Paris. I stopped at 9.

But Paris wasn’t the only place people were killed on Friday – Beirut, for example, also had a deadly attack.
Why didn’t we hear as much about that?

Instead we have been inundated with Paris footage and conversations about ISIS.
Don’t get me wrong – what happened is terrible. My heart hurts when I think about it.
But my point is that our hearts could be hurting about many things that occurred in the world two days ago – how come the spotlight has been on this one tragedy?

Welcome to systemic (and often unconscious) bias – where certain people, issues, cultures, ethnicities, religions, genders, ages, abilities, skin colours, sexual orientations, countries, values (the list could go on) are shared and highlighted while others are sidelined.

It happens in the news, in government, when making policy, in education curriculum, in schools, in our daily conversations.
And because of this we miss much of what is happening to our fellow human beings around the world – the good and the tragic. We also form opinions and solidify stereotypes about who is and isn’t “good”, and who is and ins’t “bad”.
I also think that we are slowly stripped of our humanity and our natural instinct to connect with others. Especially Others who are Not Like Us (capitals intentional).

The dangers of bias are many.
If we are not aware of bias – systemic, unconscious, personal – we:

  • don’t ask questions of what we are seeing, reading, hearing and learning or the people/organizations/systems that provide the information.
  • may think that what we are seeing is all there is.
  • may not realize that we may not be getting the whole story.
  • can start to believe that some people are better than others
  • can start to believe that some people are worse than others
  • can form rigid opinions based on only a percentage of the facts or reality – or a skewed portrayal of these.

These are just a few of the ways bias can sweep us along like a tidal wave, and carry us with it without our realization. All of us. We are inundated with messages all day, from various sources about what and who has value and what and who does not, who we should fear and who is safe, and who deserves (and doesn’t deserve) our time and attention – and respect.

More and more, our responsibility is to be critical of what we see and hear, question what else there is, question ourselves, and remember our common humanity.

Quite simply, we have to see more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

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