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How to Dismantle Racism using a Human Rights-Based Approach

1. Recognize that racism is a lived experience

Racism is the conscious or unconscious belief that certain people or groups are inherently superior to other people because they belong to a particular race. Although the concept of race has no scientific basis and is a social construct, racism and racist behaviors exist. Therefore, racism and racial discrimination are lived experiences.

Addressing racism today requires an understanding of how human rights are violated by racist ideas and discriminatory acts. Being anti-racist begins with an awareness of several forms of racism, which includes individual, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic.

2. Take an intersectional approach

Each Indigenous and racialized person has a completely different experience of discrimination. Intersectionality, coined by Kimberlè Crenshaw, is a lens which helps us understand overlapping experiences of inequality through identities, relationships, and social factors. For human rights education to be impactful, we need to commit to being conscious not only of race and gender, but also class, language, ability, and sexual orientation, amongst others.

Intersectionality can help us to be aware of how racial stereotypes exist in our communities and institutions. Each individual may experience racism in different ways because of the different groups they belong to or the intersections that make up their identity.

3. Learn with humility

Do not assume you know or understand the experiences of racialized communities, especially those you do not identify with. Explore your own cultural beliefs and identities before creating assumptions or generalizations about others. Practice active listening and empathy when learning about different points of view or experiences outside of your own. Cultural humility is a life-long practice and approach to self-reflection that begins with an examination of our own identities. This practice can help us to better recognize and change power imbalances that are a result of racism and racial discrimination

4. Adopt human rights

Empowerment and anti-racist actions begin with knowledge of human rights and human dignity.

Whenever you see discriminatory practices or behaviors, refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, International Convention on the Elimination of All Froms of Racial Discrimination, Convention of the Rights of the Child, or national and provincial human rights laws. These tools are designed to hold duty bearers accountable to rights holders.

5. Be about action and change

Being anti-racist and participating in anti-racism work requires action and policy change. Real change calls for a commitment across communities and organizations to name racism, dismantle systems of oppression, and address the culture of white supremacy.

Part of being anti-racist is to hold individuals and institutions accountable, and ask for transparency when racialized groups’ rights are violated or not taken into account in public policy.

6. Make change sustainable

Although the Sustainable Development Goals do not mention racism by name, Goal #4 (Quality Education), Goal #10 (Reduced Inequalities) and Goal #16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutes) require a measurable approach to hold nations, governments, organizations, and industries accountable to forms of race-based discrimination. A step towards sustainable racial change begins with creating space and opportunities for meaningful participation from Indigenous and racialized people, including children and youth.