Human Rights Education as a Tool for Racial Justice
In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist. – Angela Davis
Like you, we at Equitas have been reflecting on the increased visibility of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and police violence. The many tragic events and the protests taking place across Canada, the U.S. and around the world in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement remind us that racism is a very real problem, one that goes beyond interpersonal relationships and that is systemic in nature. The belief that there is little to no racism in Canada is in itself a barrier to addressing it. Systemic and structural racism experienced by Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in Canada is well-documented. A 2019 report found that Black and Indigenous people are 4 to 5 times more likely than white people to be stopped by Montreal police, and people of Middle Eastern and North African descent are 2 times more likely. A 2018 study also found that a Black person in Toronto is 20 times more likely to be killed by police than a white person.
Equitas stands against all forms of direct and systemic racism towards Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, which prevent these communities from fully exercising all of their human rights.
We recognize that by virtue of being a signatory to numerous human rights treaties, Canadian governments and public institutions are responsible to uphold these values in their practices and policies. It is our duty individually and collectively to address the racial privilege that upholds the biased systems and structures in our society, and to consider the multiplicity of experiences among different groups, as people experience racism and discrimination differently based on the intersection of identities.
As an organization whose core mission is human rights education, we offer this reminder: Respect for the human rights, dignity and equal treatment of all people are fundamental human rights. Committed to advancing equality and social justice, Equitas’ human rights education work aims to dismantle racism and is an important part of the many roads to ending racial discrimination. Given the complexities of systemic racism, we encourage everyone to follow the work and teachings of Black and Indigenous people, particularly Black and Indigenous women*, who have been, and remain, at the forefront of anti-racism education.
A key component of Equitas’ work in Canada is to equip young people with knowledge about their rights.
For more than five decades, Equitas has enabled human rights defenders, from educators to activists, to engage in ongoing conversations about human rights and non-discrimination and in carrying out actions for social change. A key component of Equitas’ work in Canada is to equip young people with knowledge about their rights and the requisite skills to be able to advocate for these rights and engage our governments in fulfilling their obligations. Supported by Equitas, youth across the country led 26 Community Action Projects last year aimed at building more inclusive and rights-respecting communities, many of which addressed racism and discrimination.
Equitas is committed to further developing anti-racism educational tools to equip communities to examine racial privilege and act for social change, such as our Building Inclusive Communities Guide to be launched this fall. The Guide offers engaging activities to support diverse young people to take action to promote respect for diversity, using a children’s rights-based approach, and will be accompanied by training across Canada for youth-serving organizations.
We are committed to examining our own internal organizational biases to effect change at this level.
In a society where systemic racism is an everyday reality, we as an organization are not immune. Though we continually strive to be actively inclusive, we know we must continue to do the hard and life-long work to learn, un-learn and re-learn in order to dismantle the systemic oppressions that live within us and within our own organization, and which disproportionately impact our BIPOC staff, volunteers, board members, and partners. We are committed to examining our own internal organizational biases to effect change at this level and want to be held accountable by the communities we work with in Canada and internationally. To do so, we are beginning with a review of our human resources policy, training for staff on unconscious bias, and tracking of representation at all levels of the organization. The goal is not only to enable staff to acknowledge and address their own racial bias, but to also develop tools, awareness, and motivation to address instances of racism when they see it. In Angela Davis’ words, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.”
Show your support for racial justice by engaging in human rights education.
Addressing racism and discrimination is the responsibility of all. For change to happen, much work remains to be done and the momentum must continue. Each and every one of us must evaluate how we too can be agents of change. Show your support for racial justice by engaging in human rights education:
- Start with self-reflection – Reflect on what internal biases, behaviours and attitudes you might have (including inaction) and how they contribute to preserving the status quo. (Recommended reading: Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad)
- Take action – Act to counter racism in your everyday life and be a better ally for equality. (Recommended reading: How to be Anti-Racist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Indigenous Ally Toolkit by Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network)
- Educate others – Start conversations and encourage others to do the same and to be agents of change in their communities. (Recommendation reading: Resources for children’s books on race diversity by The Conscious Kid and Embrace Race)
We invite you to join Equitas in actively taking a stand against racism towards Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and to continue to educate yourselves and others about, through and for human rights, to contribute to empowering and amplifying the voices of those silenced or not given equal value, and together, to change our communities for the better.
*For Equitas, the use of the word women includes anyone who is transgender, nonbinary women and/or who identifies as a woman.