Tag Archives: Black

What does a doctor look like? Anti-Black racism in action.

13 Oct

You have probably already heard or read about Dr. Tamika Cross’ post on Facebook and her experience of anti-Black racism on a Delta Airlines flight.

In case you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell:
A man needed medical attention. She got up to help and was told to sit down. The flight attendants called for a doctor over the intercom, and still she was blocked from helping and asked a series of disrespectful questions that made it clear the crew did not believe she was a doctor. Enter white male who is immediately given access to the ailing passenger. But Dr. Cross was asked to help a few minutes later.

This is about unconscious bias, and the messages we get about who has value, who can be a doctor, what a doctor looks like and sounds like. Those are the messages we receive every day – overtly and covertly – that cause the disrespectful and discriminatory treatment that Dr. Cross received. They are based on anti-Black racism.

It’s also about anti-Black racism – racism directed specifically towards Black people. It’s one of the legacies of slavery and colonization (yes, it’s been a while, and the effects are NOT over).

This is what anti-Black racism look like today folks. It’s not always horrific, or physically violent or even deadly in the moment – but it always reminds us of our place (less than), and the aim is to keep us there. And because of that – and what that means in terms of opportunities, education, health, employment, family, self esteem, etc.  – it is horrific, violent and deadly. Maybe not in the moment, but cumulatively over time.

Racism and anti-Black racism are real. They are alive and well. Sometimes they require that we look closer and examine our actions (and inactions) to recognize how they are baked into the fabric of our societies.

What do you need to learn and know to be able to see this reality if it isn’t yours, in order to help create a change and make our workplaces, communities, schools, health care facilities – the world we live in –  a safer, respectful and more equitable place for people of colour?

See more.

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




Systemic Racism in many forms…even dolls!

27 Jul
Last week in Calgary, a woman was shopping for dolls for her children at Toys R Us and made a startling discovery – the “dark skinned” doll was priced lower than it’s “lighter skinned” counterpart (those are the words from the CTV new report).toys r us dolls
Image from: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toys-r-us-says-doll-pricing-discrepancy-due-to-an-operational-error-1.2997459

So, that’s a problem.

The woman was horrified and called the manager who told her that they were aware of the issue, and had already taken it to corporate (where pricing is set).

Also a problem.

The price has since been noted as an operational error and corrected – both dolls are priced at $22.99 (the lower price).

I’m going to go with the operational error explanation – but here’s what comes up for me.

Corporate knew about it, and did nothing until someone complained.
How many other people were in that store, looking for dolls, and didn’t say anything? And why is that?
I’m going to argue that it’s because we have a deep bias that dark skin colour lowers value. And not just in toys….

Then, let’s think about this:
If a Black woman had complained, what would this have looked like?
Often when people of colour advocate for themselves around issues of racism, we are seen as:

  • taking things too personally
  • being too sensitive
  • having an agenda
  • and let’s not forget the “angry Black woman” stereotype!

So I would bet that if a Black woman had raised the issue, we at the very least wouldn’t have the same news coverage.

And why do I say if?
Because many people probably picked up that doll and said nothing. And some of those people were likely people of colour. Over time, when you are inundated with messages about your worth (or lack thereof) you begin to believe it. So I use if, because raising the issue would mean that they would expect something to be done – and that’s an expectation that (sadly) I’m not sure is always realistic.

Allies are important. They shine lights on issues of injustice and exclusion in a way that often makes it possible for the mainstream to hear and take notice.

But in that noticing, there is a bigger issue for us to come to terms with – we live in a society where some people are not seen as equal.
Not really.
And that needs to change, no matter whose voice is shouting it from the rooftops.

See more. 

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

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Talking about Race & Racism

21 Jul

Last week I was part of many conversations about race and racism – in organizations, with the people in my life, in the community.

Race and racism are tricky to talk about. People feel cautious – even afraid – to say the wrong thing, or to be perceived as ignorant (or worse, as racist). The trouble is that this often means that we are not having these important conversations. Because we don’t know how. Remember the “practice makes perfect” your parents likely said to you when you were a kid? Perfection is a lofty goal, but it sure is true that the more you practice, the easier something can become.

The spectre of political correctness is still with us. And while it’s important to think about what we are saying and the impact it might have, it’s also important that we connect with people, ask questions and learn about each other. How else will we learn what their lives are like, what matters to them, what they need, and how we experience things differently – and therefore what needs to change?  Because we can be in the same situation, organization, conversation, community, etc and be having a completely different experience because of race (or any other identity).

Take the recent shootings of two Black men in the USA by police officers for example. Firstly, these deaths were due to (at the very least) systemic racism. They were tragic, heartbreaking, and unnecessary. But if you are a person of colour, there was likely also grief and anger. I heard a lot of “no words” from Black people as we grappled with the reality that we are still not seen as equal, still not living the lives we should be on this continent, still not safe. Same incident, different experience.

When we open ourselves to see more about another person’s reality, it’s because we are beginning to recognize that we move through the world and experience the world differently. That things may be obvious for some and that others may be oblivious to those same details. This is an important first step. But what comes next?

We have to listen. Really listen to what is being shared.

And then we have to use that information and our privilege and commit to creating change by being allies (more on that later). We have talked about it long enough – we need action. Because action, not words, shows us you get it – and change doesn’t happen without it.

See more. 

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

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What Difference Can a Black Police Chief make in Toronto?

22 Apr

So we have a Black Police Chief in Toronto.
I want to cheer.
But my inner voice is saying “not so fast…”.

Here’s why:
Let’s consider the assumptions I am (and many people likely are likely) making based on skin colour and the expectations that these create.
We might assume that since Mark Saunders is Black, that racial profiling will end, that we will see less and less young Black men targeted, arrested, incarcerated or dead. That’s just one assumption, but I’m going to stop there.

That assumption is based solely on skin colour. It assumes a shared experience, a shared understanding of (and outrage at) the issues inherent in this problem. It assumes the shared perspective that this is discrimination, and that it is systemic.

The problem is that unconscious bias reigns.
It seeps into our systems and informs what we learn and don’t learn, how people are trained, treated and therefore how we see the world (as well as actions and people). The presence and pervasiveness of unconscious bias means that, even though Mark Saunders is Black, even though he was once a Black youth, he may not see racial profiling as such, may not see a problem, may not examine the system, may not fight for change.

Not because he is a bad person you understand, but because he doesn’t see it. 

The challenge is that our assumptions, based on our perspectives, may make his not seeing it unimaginable. We may not understand how this is possible. We may then assume it means he doesn’t care. And then we may be even harder on him that had he been white, because he “should get it”. We may be sorely disappointed.

Unconscious bias affects us all. It even impacts our feelings towards or away from groups that we belong to.
It’s not an excuse for inaction, but it’s a sad reality.

We can hope that in this case, skin colour will mean a shared understanding and a willingness to fight for justice and to create change for the Black communities in Toronto.
But sadly, we can’t expect it.

See more.

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

A Few Lessons about Racism from 2014

3 Jan

Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York:

– As long as the unconscious bias is that Black males are a threat, police officers (and others) will keep feeling that they have to use extreme force to protect themselves – even in situations where it seems clear that there is no threat.
– Case in point: Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner’s death (caught on video) in Staten Island, New York.
– Because of this unconscious bias, and the resulting systemic racism, racial profiling is alive and well, and also easy to get away with (as evidenced in both cases cited above) – because those called upon to make judgments about it are also victim to the same unconscious bias.
– Although I heard reporters say things like “Thank God that isn’t happening here” – it is. We have a smaller population, and maybe it’s not quite as insidious, but make no mistake, racial profiling is alive and well north of the border too.

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling:

– One of the results of systemic racism is that someone can own a team with Black basketball players (and make money from their skill), and even sleep with someone of colour, but not want to socialize with Black people – and not see an issue with that.
– This reminds me of slavery: when Black people were property, and a means to generate wealth and status, but were not considered people.

Black Pete:
– In the Netherlands and Belgium, protests erupted over Saint Nicholas’ side-kick Black Pete. Faithful fans don’t see the depiction (black face, a frizzy wig and bright red lipstick) as racism. Their opponents disagree.
– “Cultural tradition” is how it is explained and how efforts made to preserve it are justified. This is true, but it’s the culture of colonization that created a black skinned figure that traditionally was to be feared by children. Have we not evolved?
– As countries become more diverse due to immigration, what’s the impact on people of colour who see these traditions, and on the populations of white children who learn them? Is it any wonder that xenophobia is alive and well?

In 2015, I hope we can continue to have courageous conversations about systemic racism that shed light on how people of colour are perceived and misrepresented in the media, and the ripple effects of this on policies, practices, and on how we treat each other – so that we can make real change.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

Protection from Discrimination? Really?!

13 Nov

I was shown this Huffington Post article on the weekend and had such a visceral reaction to it, I couldn’t finish it:

I taught my black kids that their elite upbringing would protect them from discrimination. I was wrong.

My first reaction was to shake my head in disbelief.
“Really?! How could you? Where are you living?” I want to ask the author.

I have since read the article, and my visceral reaction has deepened, so I’d like to share a few thoughts.

1. Human beings are judgmental, and we use our eyes first. It’s probably a leftover survival strategy from when we were prey. That said, skin colour is something we can see, and sadly, I believe we see it and make judgments based on it before we notice other visual cues about a person: clothing, accessories etc., and that it trumps things we can’t see like language, education etc. So it’s not unbelievable, in North America, to consider that a well dressed black youth will experience more discrimination than a not-so-well-dressed white youth. Sadly.

2. Delving in to the world of unconscious bias allows me to consider the reality that many people have an unconscious bias against people of colour. Looking at how the media portrays us will give you a glimpse into the unconscious bias in the media. This will impact the outcome of #1.

3. It pained me to read that this man’s son didn’t want to report being called the ‘N word’ to the administration because he didn’t want the other students to consider him to be “racial”. What does that even mean? Does he mean he didn’t want them to notice he is Black?! HE IS BLACK! Has he noticed? Are higher education, upper class status, tennis lessons, expensive clothing and fancy cars still being considered non-synonymous with being Black? Did this man’s son really think his fellow students weren’t noticing his skin colour all this time?

4. All of the rules in the article made me sad. I understand their origins and the intention to protect our children from profiling, violence and death. All worthy intentions, and all intentions that recognize some of the unfortunate realities of being Black in the USA and Canada (and likely in other places). But all of these rules without the context (and the understanding that not everyone has to have these rules) is key. We have to talk about racism and systemic racism (and other isms). We have to explain that not everyone is seen, accepted and treated equally (and why) in order to provide the context for why some of us have to move through the world differently: more carefully, with more caution, with extra “tools” in our “toolbox”, working harder, proving our competence, etc. We have to know who we are and what that means in the context of where we are living. How to do so without undermining the optimism and energy of youth is another story.

Being a person of colour in North America (and in other parts of the world) is a very different experience from being white. White skin brings privilege that money, education and accessories often do not trump – due to the power of unconscious bias, the legacy of slavery and colonization, and the continued tendency for the media to portray us in a negative light. Knowing about privilege and understanding the ramifications will help us to talk about it and ultimately to create systemic changes.

See more.

Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

Blind Spot – Part 2: Social Mindbugs

1 Oct

Last week I introduced you to social mindbugs. This week, I’m going to make the case a little more, because I know that it’s challenging to take in that what our unconscious mind believes can lead us in a direction/to a behaviour or conclusion that our conscious mind would abhor.

In case you missed last week’s post, Dr. Banaji and Dr. Greenbaum (the authors of Blind Spot) describe mindbugs as “Ingrained habits of thought that lead to errors in how we perceive, remember, reason and make decisions.” Social mindbugs are habits of thought that are about social groups.

The media is one of the powerful ways that mindbugs are created and maintained. How people are presented in the news provides us with some amazing examples of mindbugs. The challenge is that, because they are mindbugs, we don’t necessarily catch them or their problematic nature because they confirm what we believe (at an unconscious level or even at a conscious level).

A powerful example of this is coverage during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.
You may remember these photos because they did cause a stir at the time. These are a perfect example of social mindbugs at work. Read the caption and see what jumps out at you before you read on.


Both parties are in the same dire situation, but the Black people are referred to as looters while the white people are referred to as having found provisions.

Social mindbugs lead us to trust some people and not trust others, simply because of the social group they belong to (race, class, ability, education, looks, etc). In this case, that unconscious bias transferred into the language that was chosen by the journalist and the fact that the editorial team didn’t catch it.

They are called unconscious biases for a reason. But they still have tremendous impact.
Take some time in the next few days to consider what biases you may hold.

What social mindbugs are you carrying?

See more.

Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker & Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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