Tag Archives: discrimination

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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LGBT Seniors in Long Term Care

30 Sep

I’m working on a project for Egale about raising awareness about the need for LGBTQ safer spaces in seniors’ long term care facilities.

It’s easy to think that because LGBTQ laws have changed, that all people who identify as LGBTQ are living an open, out and discrimination-free life.  In general, this is a flawed assumption, but when it comes to seniors, it’s even more tragically flawed.

Considering when legislation changed, someone who is over 65 has spent a good portion of their life without them.
For example, in Canada (not a complete list):

1969: Sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex is no longer a criminal offence (a 65 year old would have been 19, a 75 year old would have been 29, an 85 year old would have been 39). Considering that individuals discover and explore their sexuality long before 19, even now 65 year olds would have grown up under a cloud of fear and shame.

1973: Being gay, lesbian or bisexual is no longer considered a mental illness and people can no longer be forced to submit to psychiatric treatment (a 65 year old would have been 23 in 1973).

1977: Quebec is the first province in Canada to include sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code (a 65 year old in Quebec would have been 27. Too bad if you lived elsewhere in Canada).

1996: BillC-33 is passed, adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act (a 65 year old would have been 46).

As of March 2015 (and only in the last few years) only 7 provinces and territories in Canada explicitly include Gender Identity in their Human Rights Codes (more info: www.tesaonline.org)

While we are fortunate to have these new laws and rights like marriage equality in Canada (and recently in the USA), LGBTQ seniors have spent much (for some, most) of their lives without these protections and human rights. The result is a mistrust of health care and social services, making them less likely to seek assistance. And the long term effects of a life dealing with discrimination, harassment, and loss of family and connections include (but are not limited to) higher rates of: poverty, depression, issues with substance abuse, chronic disease, poor nutrition, premature mortality.

So when you combine a life lived in fear and having to hide who you are, with less family support and resources, and consider the need for care as one ages…it can be quite scary to access any type of care but particularly to live in a long term care facility where you aren’t sure if you can be who you are.

Baby Boomers who have been out and proud will be more likely to be vocal and to demand changes within senior care.
Because of their age and history, older seniors are more likely to keep quiet.

And so we have LGBT seniors in long term care facilities who are forced back into the closet, separated from their partners, treated disrespectfully, forced to conform to society’s expectations of gender identity and expression, and who have partners who aren’t acknowledged and about whom they therefore can’t talk, or share memories.

I imagine it’s difficult enough to be a senior in a society that doesn’t value aging.
But to live in fear on top of that?

We need to do more.
Hopefully San Francisco is on it’s way as of today.
Let’s get going!

See more.  

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, facilitator, consultant, author 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.

Why a hijab is not a hat

3 Mar

On Friday, a judge in Quebec refused to hear a case because the woman in her courtroom was wearing a hijab.
She likened it to someone wearing a hat or sunglasses – which are not permitted. Furthermore, she is reported to have said that the woman was not “suitably dressed”.
When I heard it on the radio I had to stop the car and take a moment.

Suitably dressed?!

Let’s consider the difference:
Hats and sunglasses are fashion accessories that we choose to wear.
Some Muslim women wear hijabs (head scarves) for religious reasons – and are not permitted to remove them outside of their home.
That would, in fact, make this woman “suitably dressed”.

Why are people still experiencing discrimination for what their beliefs require them to wear?

Since Rania El-Alloul has been interviewed, many leaders (including the Prime Ministers office) have spoken out against Judge Eliana Morengo’s decision. But she hasn’t been disciplined.

What’s wrong with this picture?

See more.

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

Sexual Harassment and Intersectionality

4 Nov

Thanks to Jian Ghomeshi, there has been a lot of talk over the past two weeks about sexual violence and sexual harassment.
It’s good that we are talking about it.

Yesterday I caught the tail end of an interview on CBC radio about sexual harassment in the workplace, and why women don’t come forward.

And I thought, what about intersectionality? Have we interviewed women who are not white, or who are lesbian, or who don’t have a post secondary education (for example) about their experiences of sexual harassment at work?

Intersectionality means that we have many identities that intersect and impact our experiences of discrimination or harassment. In a culture of silence (still), bringing a complaint of sexual harassment forward is already tough enough. Racism or homophobia or classism (for example) on top of this can add further layers of silence as people try to negotiate their safety and justice in a world that doesn’t want to see them for all that they are or what they contribute – which spills into how (and if) they are heard. Coming forward with a serious complaint against someone who likely has more social power than you – in more identities than gender – would require even more courage and fortitude.

I’d like to hear a discussion on the radio about that.

See more.
Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

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