In the summer of 2020, at the height of widespread protests in support of Black lives, it felt like real change might finally be on the horizon. For the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful.
And in the year and a half since, we have hit a turning point when it comes to talking about racism in Canada. It just isn’t the turning point I was hoping to see.
In many places, it’s become less socially acceptable to openly deny the existence of racism in this country. But that doesn’t mean everyone has suddenly accepted the lived realities of what it means to be a person of colour in this country. Far from embracing a mass epiphany that racism’s deep and pervasive roots must finally be addressed, polite society has merely shifted its standards of what not to say in public.
This is one of the lessons I keep having to relearn, that being nice is not the same thing as being good. I have had so many friends and colleagues and bosses who say the right things about racial equality, but are nowhere to be found when it comes to actually taking action. Whether they are driven by prejudice or by apathy, the results are the same. This is not allyship, and this is not seeing our humanity.
What does racism look like to you? Maybe you envision white Klan hoods, burning crosses on lawns, or the spittle-flecked rage on the faces of white nationalists. When I think of the most typical racism I’ve encountered throughout my life, I remember smiling faces.
This is the polite racism of the Canada I know. Pleasant smiles that belie what is underneath.
It’s those smiles that try to convince us that we are being too sensitive, while questioning if we are imagining racism where it doesn’t exist. The ones who suggest that we are better off than the U.S., and that we should just be grateful to live in such a progressive country.
It’s the smile of the teacher who tells me how she is a good ally, but who later uses the n-word in her classroom. I remember her tears when I confront her afterwards, and how I have to awkwardly console her.
It’s the smile of the senior manager who offers her support when I tell her about the racism I am experiencing in the company, but who does nothing to fix the situation or to protect me.
It’s the smiles of the publishers who tell me how important anti-racism is to them, and how brave I am for sharing on social media my experiences with racism and discrimination in the journalism industry — even as they resist attempts to address systemic racism in their own newsrooms.
These are the hallmarks of Canadian racism. Empathy to your face, but not standing with you when it actually counts.
It’s politicians taking a knee in public displays of solidarity with Black lives, while doing little to nothing to address the systemic racism that criminalizes and overpolices our communities.
It’s empty statements of contrition from government, businesses and non-profits, who are content to create diversity committees and commission endless audits and reports that act as shields against criticism without delivering any real change.
It’s from these moments that the idea for The Resolve was first born — when it became clear to me that the people in charge of supposedly progressive newsrooms often had no real interest in fixing the systemic racism they helped prop up. When I realized that despite their semblances of public support, they had no intention of making real changes. That even when presented with concrete items to address, they would rather stall and make excuses. I knew I had to create and model something better.
Black, Indigenous and racialized communities have been dangerously underserved by media in Canada. Traditional media practices have directly and indirectly contributed to trauma and distrust as they knowingly and unknowingly perpetuate and sustain racist perspectives. The Resolve aims to use journalism in a thoughtful and deliberate way to centre community and accountability.
We’re reimagining how to do journalism better — where it is not filtered through a white lens but where Indigenous, Black and people of colour can tell their own stories, where we prioritize the well-being of our communities, and as a place where racialized journalists can thrive and flourish.
For as long as I can remember, the Canadian media and public have existed in a state of perpetual amnesia when it comes to race and racism, always starting the conversation at square one whenever another racist incident surfaces.
The Resolve is not going to engage in endless circular debates about whether racism exists, or whether it is actually an issue in this country.
Racism exists. It is a deep-rooted problem in Canada. Period.
And we are ready to have this conversation.
But we can’t do it alone. We’ve been very fortunate to secure funding from a few generous patrons who share our vision, but now we’re counting on readers like you to help sustain our resolve. If you think this journalism is important, I sincerely hope you’ll consider becoming a founding member of The Resolve.
Because I believe the time has come to stop waiting for others to make meaningful change — and to rewrite how journalism is done together.