Tag Archives: marginalization

A Black History Month Insight

28 Feb

Ah Black History Month….

I have just returned from a vacation in Barbados with my family. There is an election going on and one of the newspaper articles while we were there was about why there were no White people running this time.

In contrast, on our first day back I was listening to G98 on the radio in the car and heard one of their Black History Moments. These are meant to highlight a Black person and their achievements in the present or in history. That day it was about the first Black female preacher in Ontario.

It made me think: we can tell a group has been marginalized when we talk about firsts. When was the last time you heard “the first man to…” or “the first white person who….”.
Um, never. When these occur it’s usually just about the accomplishment, but not with a caveat about the person’s identity.

Subtle messages like these, if we listen closely, tell us a lot about where we are at as a society and how much further we have to go.

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copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Writer and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion


The Politics of Labels

15 Aug

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a friend – about a conversation he had with someone who is new to Canada.

It went something like this:

“What is this “people of colour” business?”
“Well, that’s what we call people who are not white” (note: my friend is white, his friend, who is new to Canada, is not).

“What about coloured people?”
“No! We don’t say that anymore. That’s disrespectful! Actually a new word that is being used is Racialized.”
“Racialized? What does that mean?! Is it a verb or a noun?”
Good questions.

This is a simplified version of the conversation- since my friend is well informed and aware of race and privilege etc. But what came up for us as we spoke about it is that the terms  still label from the white perspective. There is no special term for people who are white. Except white. Or caucasian. But somehow the rest of us get lumped into a broad category that identifies us by what we are not (we are not white, so we are People of Colour) or by how we are seen or maybe treated (through race which is also not white). Racialized suggests to me that something is being done to us – it suggests the negative impact of power and privilege and the experience of not being white in Canada, rather than describing what we look like.

It made me think: what if white people were People  without Colour  in comparison to everyone else? Seems strange, no?

And there we have it. The strangeness is a signal of privilege, and perspective. White still is the colour of power. And the interesting part of labelling is not just the words chosen, but who carries the label. If we had 2 labels – people of colour and people without colour, or racialized and non-racialized – it would suggest a level playing field. But as soon as only one group has a label that differentiates them, it indicates imbalance – and marginalization of some sort.

Ah words.

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion.

The Questions People Ask

26 Mar

I’m mulling over an experience I had last week.

Maybe it’s because I’m a workshop facilitator, and a teacher before that.
Maybe it’s because I was facilitating a workshop when it happened.
Maybe it’s because the workshop was on creating LGBTQ safe space.

Whatever the reason, when one workshop participant came up to me on break and said “I have to ask, was it IVF?” I answered her question. (I guess I should backtrack and add that I’m pregnant).

Maybe it’s because I feel a responsibility to educate, or the fact that she told me her sister is a lesbian. Or maybe I just don’t have a problem answering questions.
But I am wondering now, if I did the right thing. Would she ask a straight woman how she got pregnant? But then, in that case, she may assume that she knows the answer (and she may be wrong).

So I wonder: is how I got pregnant one of those questions & answers that will help break down barriers? To be honest, I don’t know.

As a D&I facilitator, my job is to help people cultivate tools to be able to break down barriers so that they can really see others. Much of those barriers are due to personal and societal bias. Part of really seeing others and the barriers they face is recognizing privilege. One of the liberties of privilege can be feeling the right to question. It’s tricky, because without questions, we rely on what we know – which can be informed by stereotypes, or could just be incorrect. Questions allow us to get to know each other. But I have do wonder about the appropriateness of some questions, who we dare to ask, and what this suggests about how we see and value certain people (and identities).

I may be over-analyzing, but upon further thought, I think what I would have liked to say is this:

“That’s a really personal question. Why do you want to know?”
Or maybe: “That’s a really personal question. What makes you think you can ask?”

I could still have answered her question, but I would have created an opportunity for thought.
Which, come to think of it, is my most important responsibility as an educator.

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion.

Faith @ Work II

22 Nov

One of the workshops I attended at the Nov. 9th Diversity@Work conference put on by Skills for Change was by Nadir Shirazi. He spoke about dedicated spaces in offices for quiet time, prayer, meditation etc.

Nadir’s presentation was very interesting; he shared the challenge for companies to name these rooms, and the lack of follow-up to see who is using them and how they are used. He confirmed that most of the requests for such rooms are made my Muslim employees. And he explained that complexities arise when these rooms are used by many people with different beliefs and needs. Providing a room, as the title of his workshop suggested, is just the tip of the religious accommodation iceberg.

What stood out for me most, however, was the inequity Nadir shared of where these rooms often are. In their commitment to diversity and inclusion many companies have such spaces in their corporate offices. This is wonderful for the executives and employees who work there, but doesn’t help the staff in the company’s call centres, or retail stores, or franchise outlets (for example).

It was an interesting manifestation of privilege within the context of attempting to be equitable; of how easily people can be overlooked even when we are trying to be inclusive. I’m willing to bet it’s largely unconscious that the men and women at head office have a meditation or prayer room while the workers “on the front lines” of these companies may not. But if this is the case, what do our accommodation efforts really amount to?

It sure made me wonder when I placed my order for tea at the Toronto Airport last week before boarding my flight, and noticed that not a single person working there was White.

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

Supplier Diversity

27 Sep

One aspect of diversity we are not talking much about in Canada is Supplier Diversity. Growing in popularity in the USA and UK, Supplier Diversity is another way for a company to exercise their diversity and inclusion commitments.

Supplier Diversity is simple: it requires companies to take a look at the businesses they use as suppliers, and make conscious decisions to broaden the pool by using qualified minority-owned businesses.

I can already hear the arguments about preferential treatment, quotas and “needing to hire the best company for the job” (sound familiar?).  It begs the question: how are companies picking their suppliers now? Could it be that they are choosing suppliers that they have done business with for years, companies they know, or a company they own themselves…?

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like preferential treatment to me,  and not the meritocracy often used as an argument against diversity.  

Suppliers are at the mercy of “the Old Boys Network” just as new hires and employees up for promotion – it’s not just what you know, but who you know. Supplier Diversity shines a light on this and asks companies to take a look at how they can contribute to diversifying their pool of suppliers – essentially giving companies owned by women, visible minorities, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and youth a foot in the door in a system that can be just as exclusive as hiring and promotion (both intentionally, and unintentionally).

Just like commitments to diversity and inclusion internally (hiring, mentorship, sponsorship, etc) supplier diversity brings opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and market knowledge.

Think of what you could be missing.

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

For more information, check out: Diversity Business Network , WEConnect and the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council.

Gender Identity & Human Rights

23 Sep

We’re lucky in Canada to have a Human Rights Code that recognizes the inherent right to fair and equitable treatment, regardless of who we are…well, almost.

Gender Identity is still not specified as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Code.

Most of us probably haven’t given this much thought.
For most people, gender identity matches their physical bodies.
For some people, however, this is not the case.
Transgender, trans-identified and transsexual individuals face discrimination and violence, and currently have no real human rights protection.

MP Hedy Fry is changing that by introducing Bill C-276: An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression).

Take a look.
And then think about what you need to be more aware of and learn in order to help make spaces more inclusive for transgender, trans-identified and transsexual people in your communities, organizations and families.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion


After the UK Riots…

18 Aug

This past weekend I caught a brief story on CBC news about how UK Prime Minster David Cameron is considering assistance from New York Police Commissioner and Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton to help address the violence that has shaken cities in England this month.

Whether this partnership proceeds or not, or the merit of it, is not what struck me as I listened to the news. What caught my attention was the short clip of David Cameron, where he said that this was about “dealing with people that we have ignored for too long.” That caught my attention.

Think about it: people who feel valued and acknolwedged, have enough to eat, have meaningful work, and feel a sense of agency and hope don’t riot.

It was refreshing to hear the Prime Minister of a country recognize the impact of marginalization. It shows recognition and thoughtfulness about the existence and impact of systemic discrimination.

It’s an important place to start. I hope that David Cameron can lead his party and country to look inward, and reach out to communities to hear their realities – in order to find the sources of marginalization and the systemic remedies that will help communities not only heal, but see and experience a brighter future where their cultural & ethnic origins, skin colour, or faith don’t stack against them.

We could learn a thing or two here in Canada, just from his comment alone.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder



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