After speaking at a #BlackLivesMatter protest recently I have had a number of local residents ask that we find ways to continue the anti-racist dialogue. One resident suggested we strive to make Paris “The Most Welcoming Town in Canada.” That reads to me as an excellent goal.
One of the first actions we will have to take is to admit that racism is a problem in our community. Saying it out loud does not make it worse. In fact, being honest that this is an issue here and thinking critically about it is an act of community love.
The stories I have heard from constituents about overt and covert racism here are heartbreaking. We are an amazing community, but this is a clear problem here and one that rankles many to even talk about.
But we have to talk about it.
Further we have to do things to improve the situation. We can educate ourselves. We can read and amplify the work of experts and those with lived experience. We can do more to celebrate diversity and to welcome change.
And we can do some things on a practical level too:
- We can support businesses and organizations that are owned or led by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) individuals.
- We can donate to organizations on the front lines of anti-racism work – if you can’t donate then take some time to research the kind of work being done and support it as you can, when you can.
- We can continue to work with local religious and cultural groups like our regional Mosque (https://brantfordmosque.ca/#) and regional Sikh Association (http://brantsikhs.com/) which are both wonderful community partners.
- We can support diversity by supporting the building of a mosque or temple in our community as changing demographics warrant.
- We can (and are) working on something that has been suggested by many anti-racist organizations which is more automated speed control. Our Streets Minneapolis recently published a paper (ourstreetsmpls.org) recommending the use of speed cameras for traffic enforcement to reduce racial disparities in ticketing.
- We can explore our own biases by taking the Harvard Implicit Bias Test (implicit.harvard.edu).
- We need confront racism when we see it. Silence is complicity. Instead let’s engage in those difficult conversations with one another. Discomfort in this way is a good path to growth overall.
Stay well and take care of each other.
Note: This piece originally appeared in the August 2020 edition of Neighbours of Paris on The Grand Magazine