Ms. Au and I had the privilege of participating in the Black on Bay Street event on February, 26 led by the Economic Club of Canada. The thought-provoking event centred around a panel with three individuals who have experienced racism first-hand in the corporate world.
The panel discussion was led by journalist Hadiya Rodrique. Hadiya made insightful prompts such as, “there’s a lot of research evidence dating back to 2003 that shows that black and other minority names are disadvantaged in the hiring process, so what do you make of, given that we know this and we’ve known this for so long, the reluctance to use measures such as anonymized resumes, skill tests, etc. in the hiring process?” Prompts such as these started impactful conversations on systemic racism deeply rooted in Canadian culture and conscious and unconscious biases Caucasian Canadians have towards other races. The discussion was incredibly eye-opening and made me think about all of the privileges I have as a Caucasian person and how I have not experienced the forms of discrimination and oppression that they were describing.
At one point during the panel discussion, I began to feel guilty for my privilege and my complete unawareness of the vast forms of discrimination that these individuals were describing. Towards the end of the discussion, Rodrique prompted the panellists to address how they felt non-marginalized races could be allies to marginalized groups, and across the board, their advice was for individuals to recognize their privilege and use it to speak up for people who need it even when it’s inconvenient. Panellist Naki Osutei described it as “an ally moment”. They also explained that asking people about their experiences, finding commonality with them, and appreciating the oppression which they’ve faced and you have not are good places to start.
Overall, I learned a lot about discrimination and racial bias in corporate Canada, and hope to bring some of that newfound knowledge and attitude towards allyship back to Greenwood.