Category Archives: Equity

Imagining a post-pandemic world with equitable public service treatment

White wall with a mask grafitti with the words Covid-19. Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

In this blog piece, Ayden Adeyanju-Jackson, a third-year Queen’s student, reflects on the importance of understanding and addressing systemic disadvantages for BIPoC communities in order to achieve lasting post-pandemic change

Over the past 3 decades, the world has watched all levels of society (i.e., supranational, regional, national, and local governments; multinational and national businesses; and international non-governmental organizations and grassroot movements) embrace social justice values and practices at the forefront of their policy agendas. This pervasive, unequivocal aspirational rhetoric for social justice reform is most-likely attributed to the rise of globalization, where cross-regional relationship building and information exchange has increased the voice, organizational capacity, and agency of BIPoC communities around the world. With this greater structural agency (i.e., greater individual and collective capacity for actors to change the structures they are bounded by), the intrinsic and practical value of BIPoC communities to the global value chain can no longer be ignored. The subversive potential of BIPoC communities can be understood by the emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a tool aiming to balance the inherent tensions between business and humanitarian/environmental values. Essentially, despite businesses operating under a globalized, capitalist framework, and therefore having to abide by capitalism’s non-negotiable values, such as the “right to make a profit, commodify labor, and the environment”; multinationals now seem to understand that the rigidity of these values must be sacrificed to accommodate BIPoC interests, and in turn, preserve the status quo[i]. To respond more constructively to the unique interests of BIPoC constituents, intersectionality has been used as a lens by social institutions to understand the ways in which reality is experienced differently by overlapping social identities (e.g., class, gender, race, and ability).

Although CSR has been normalized as best practice for multinational organizations and intersectionality has been rhetorically invoked by various social institutions, BIPoC communities do not seem to be substantively benefiting from this emerging global paradigm that boasts social justice reform. When reflecting on social realities exacerbated by the pandemic, notions of CSR and intersectionality do not seem to address the root issues engendering systemic adversity for BIPoC communities. The limitations of these symptomatic tools were illuminated to me through my experiences with policing and public healthcare during the pandemic. Even though policing institutions pledge to equally “protect and serve” explicitly through rhetoric, and implicitly through community dialogue and outreach; my racialized peers and I experienced more frequent and more severe COVID-19 punitive violations despite adhering to social distancing rules to the same extent as our non-racialized counterparts. This shared feeling among my racialized peers is statistically validated by the COVID-19 Police Project, which found that members of BIPoC communities are 2.5 times more likely to be subjected to punitive measures for violating COVID-19 protocols[ii]. When considering the increased social consciousness of society, the domination of social justice rhetoric in mainstream media, and the tangible social justice actions institutions have made; this may seem like a statistical anomaly and/or a sign of regression. However, I believe that this racial disparity is a result of ineffective symptomatic solutions that do not account for how deeply entrenched the oppressive status quo is in society. Institutions are trying to dismantle oppression through espousing social justice and inclusive rhetoric while emphasizing the implementation of value neutral polices. In theory, laws and rules governing society are supposed to be value-neutral to prevent the permeation of emotions and biases that can hinder the ability to reach an objective judgement. However, in a society with deeply pervasive unconscious bias situated in a historical context of unresolved oppression, value neutral polices will paradoxically – but inherently – perpetuate pre-existing inequality if they do not account for intersectionality. This insidiously problematic global, social justice paradigm can also be understood by systemic oppression perpetuated by hospitals during the pandemic. Despite hospitals being explicitly committed to equally serving all members of the community through its rhetoric and universal coverage, BIPoC people were still disproportionately affected by COVID-19, where they were “more exposed and less protected”[iii]. Although the virus does not discriminate on racial lines, healthcare institutions do. Provider biases can determine access to treatment, wait times, diagnoses, treatments, and prognoses, which are heavily informed by racist understandings of society[iv].  From this perspective, rather than trying to uproot this oppression with a shovel to make opportunities and outcomes more equitable, institutions seem to be trying to cover it with a cardboard to make the playing field more even. This symptomatic, myopic framework of understanding oppression has inherently reduced the scope of progress, suggesting that some oppression is tolerable. Furthermore, it has also increased the vulnerability of BIPoC communities to severe and potentially fatal implications of the pandemic.

Rather than using our knowledge of how deeply rooted oppression is in our society to develop quick fix solutions that are going to erupt in our face during extreme global events, we should use it to consider ways in which society can be meaningfully reformed, so that all people – regardless of their intersectionality – can sustainably and equitably benefit from the status quo. At the bottom, an understanding of intersectionality can be used to guide working group discussions that engage all stakeholders of an institution. With reference to policing, marginalized citizens who have had an interaction with the police, traditionally underrepresented officers, and administrative members who identify as an equity seeking group should have a platform to discuss the normative implications of policing practices to guide reform. In the healthcare sector, this diverse inclusion of stakeholders could look like underrepresented patients, staff, nurses, doctors, and administrative members. At the top, racialized and Indigenous perspective should be mainstreamed in public institutions so bias can be mitigated by accounting for the ways in which value-neutral laws and policies can disproportionately impact equity seeking groups. In policing, Black, Indigenous, and critical race perspectives should be adopted to consider the ways in which misdemeanor and felony infractions can deliberately and inadvertently scape goat marginalized communities. In the healthcare sector, these same perspectives should be used to understand the construction of unconscious biases, and how they can hinder the prospect of attaining equitable treatment for traditionally underrepresented groups. For Black communities, The Black Experiences in Healthcare report 2020 has been praised by the Canadian Medical Association Journal as “an excellent resource for physicians across the country to educate themselves regarding the experiences of Black Canadian patients”, so should be institutionalized as a vehicle for the mainstreaming of racialized perspectives[v]. Tangible actions outside of increasing social consciousness can also occur at the top. Specifically, representation of BIPoC professionals in social institutions should be addressed, so racialized peoples feel more comfortable seeking support from public institutions. Currently, Black people comprise 2.3% of practicing physicians, despite 4.5% of Ontarians being Black[vi]. Therefore, this disparity should be addressed to mitigate the impact of systemic discrimination and provider bias on the nature of treatment. To meaningfully account for the intergenerational effects of oppression, alternative pathways to higher level, specialized education should be engendered. If public institutions are interested in meaningfully acknowledging the implications of intersectionality on BIPoC livelihood, then equity-seeking groups should also have greater autonomy over the nature of services received. For indigenous peoples, alternative, non-Eurocentric health care practices should be normalized and institutionalized. The First Nations-led health authority in British Columbia epitomizes this prescriptive vision and has already experienced statistical success, whereby there has been early evidence of reductions in infant mortality and youth suicide[vii]. Finally, race-based data collection should be publicly institutionalized to monitor the effectiveness of intersectional reform on the lived experiences of BIPoC communities. Overall, by implementing meaningful, far-reaching intersectional frameworks into public, social institutions, adverse implications on marginalized groups seeking institutional support for various aspects of their livelihood can be decreased.  

Overall, CSR and intersectionality are good tools for critically understanding how capitalism engenders systemic disadvantage for BIPoC communities, and how this injustice can be muted or circumvented. However, when considering my positionality (Bi-Racial, socioeconomically disadvantaged, second generation Canadian) along with the shared experiences of my racialized peers during the pandemic, substantive change cannot occur through considering these concepts through symptomatic lenses. Rather, frameworks of intersectionality must be used concertedly and robustly through bottom up, top-down methods to subvert the oppressive culture that adversely impacts the effectiveness of value-neutral laws.


[i] Blowfield, M. (2005). Corporate Social Responsibility: Reinventing the Meaning of Development? International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), 81(3), 515–524. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3569631

[ii] Coleman, T., Emmer, P., Ritchie, A., & Wang, T. (2021, January 6). The data is in. people of color are punished more harshly for Covid violations in the US | Timothy Colman, Pascal Emmer, Andrea Ritchie and Tiffany Wang. The Guardian. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/06/covid-violations-people-of-color-punished-more-harshly

[iii] VawLearning. (n.d.). “more exposed and less protected” in Canada: Systemic racism and covid-19. Learning Network – Western University. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/our-work/backgrounders/more_exposed_and_less_protected_in_canada_systemic_racism_and_covid19/

[iv] Solo, J., & Festin, M. (2019, September 26). Provider bias in family planning services: A review of its meaning and manifestations. Global health, science and practice. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6816811/#:~:text=Provider%20bias%20refers%20to%20attitudes,and%2For%20contraceptive%20method%20characteristics

[v] Dryden, O. S., & Nnorom, O. (2021, January 11). Time to dismantle systemic anti-black racism in medicine in Canada. CMAJ. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.cmaj.ca/content/193/2/E55

[vi] Dryden, O. S., & Nnorom, O. (2021, January 11). Time to dismantle systemic anti-black racism in medicine in Canada. CMAJ. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.cmaj.ca/content/193/2/E55

[vii] First Nation’s Health Authority. (n.d.). Improving access to First Nations-led primary health care. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/improving-access-to-first-nations-led-primary-health-care

Works Consulted

Canada, P. H. A. of. (2021, February 21). Cpho Sunday edition: The impact of covid-19 on racialized communities. Canada.ca. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/news/2021/02/cpho-sunday-edition-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-racialized-communities.html

Coleman, T., Emmer, P., Ritchie, A., & Wang, T. (2021, January 6). The data is in. people of color are punished more harshly for Covid violations in the US | Timothy Colman, Pascal Emmer, Andrea Ritchie and Tiffany Wang. The Guardian. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/06/covid-violations-people-of-color-punished-more-harshly

Dryden, O. S., & Nnorom, O. (2021, January 11). Time to dismantle systemic anti-black racism in medicine in Canada. CMAJ. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.cmaj.ca/content/193/2/E55

First Nation’s Health Authority. (n.d.). Improving access to First Nations-led primary health care. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/improving-access-to-first-nations-led-primary-health-care

Jones, A. M. (2021, October 6). Tackling anti-black racism in Canadian health care: Experts putting together first primer of its kind. CTVNews. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/tackling-anti-black-racism-in-canadian-health-care-experts-putting-together-first-primer-of-its-kind-1.5613938

Solo, J., & Festin, M. (2019, September 26). Provider bias in family planning services: A review of its meaning and manifestations. Global health, science and practice. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6816811/#:~:text=Provider%20bias%20refers%20to%20attitudes,and%2For%20contraceptive%20method%20characteristics

Subedi, R., Greenberg, T. L., & Turcotte, M. (2020, October 28). This article examines the differences in covid-19 related mortality rates across different ethno-cultural neighbourhoods in Canada. the differences in age-standardized mortality rates by proportion of population groups designated as visible minorities are compared for Canada and selected provinces and census metropolitan areas to understand whether or not communities with higher proportion of population designated as visible minorities are reporting higher COVID-19 related mortality rates. COVID-19 mortality rates in Canada’s ethno-cultural neighbourhoods. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2020001/article/00079-eng.htm

VawLearning. (n.d.). “more exposed and less protected” in Canada: Systemic racism and covid-19. Learning Network – Western University. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/our-work/backgrounders/more_exposed_and_less_protected_in_canada_systemic_racism_and_covid19/

Pandemic & Impact on EDII

Image of hands working together building a foundation
Photo by Rodolfo Quirós from Pexels

In this piece, Tahmena Bokhari, EDI Director for the Smith School of Business, imagines a future where forever changed communities are filled with more compassion, empathy and humility

This winter break, as Omicron was taking hold over Kingston, Ontario, I reflected back to the early days prior to the pandemic being officially declared and all that has happened since then. Back in January of 2020, when we were first learning of this virus, I was in Toronto just beginning to learn about the impact of the virus on staff and working with leaders to formulate some messaging. A staff was planning a trip to China and worried she may be getting backlash from colleagues. As weeks went on, local GTA Chinese business owners were discussing the impact to their local customers and communities. As the pandemic was officially declared and as lockdowns were being implemented, we collectively became science students learning about molecular structures of Covid-19. Members of Indigenous and Black communities began talking about their fears as minoritized persons, mistrust of healthcare systems and government mandated vaccines.  South Asian families in areas like Peel Region were talking about concerns of living in multigenerational households as well as fears of the health of family members in their countries of origin. Employees with disabilities who were suddenly having to work from home and were not provided adequate accessible supports felt that we lost accessibility gains made in the workplace. Many equity-deserving communities started voicing concerns about struggles being compounded due to isolation and job precariousness for members of equity-deserving groups, particularly newcomers. Certainly, we have seen inequitable vaccine access globally.  

Back then, on a personal note, I had no idea that today I would be sitting in my new home in Kingston writing this piece. During this past year, I accepted an offer to lead the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiative. I also had no idea the monumental leaps this pandemic would see for anti-racism, anti-Black racism, and anti-Indigenous racism and decolonization. The murder of George Floyd, the uncovering of mass graves of Indigenous children in residential schools, and the killing of a Muslim family merely going for a walk, in London, Ontario — all shook the country to the core. People came together in historic ways to march, protest and show solidarity. As an EDI leader, I have personally and professionally been transformed, in ways that I am still processing. I do not want us to lose what we have gained.

As I imagine a future with us having moved through this pandemic, I envision people and communities forever changed with more compassion, empathy and humility. Life, as we have been harshly reminded, is so very fragile, even for those who may appear to be healthy and in their prime years of life. As Ontarians, who are so privileged to have the healthcare we do, it was a wake-up call that our systems are not fail-proof and have limits. It is a reckoning with life as we know it! It is an opportunity to question how we have been doing things, what we prioritize, how we can work together for the betterment of all, and how we can shift our systems to be more efficient, agile and equitable. Ultimately, it is an opportunity to reconsider our values. I ask the question, “What side of history do you want to be on and remembered for by your grandchildren and great-grandchildren?” Just as students in grade school today are learning about residential schools, thanks to the Truth & Reconciliation recommendations on education, future generations will be reading about this pandemic and all that changed as a result. Will they be reading that this was a major turning point and that finally systemic and institutionalized forms of inequity were being taken seriously with action and results? I will leave you with this question.

Together We Are: 6th year!

Photo by Priscilla Gyamfi on unsplash.com

Photo by Priscilla Gyamfi on unsplash.com

The school year is starting with many changes and uncertainties. But in times of crisis, solidarity becomes key.

During 2020, several events of international relevance have prompted equity-seeking communities to keep challenging the oppressive systems that have made them more vulnerable. In this 6th year, the Together We Are blog will explore how equity-seeking communities are supporting each other during times of crisis, and how equity-seeking groups can ensure that the ‘new normal’ is built on equity principles.

As we update this blog with excellent pieces from Queen’s students, staff and faculty members, don’t forget that YOU are part of this conversation as well. Together We Are is part of the Queen’s and broader Kingston community, therefore, you can share and comment on all of our Social Media platforms.

Eight “Good Practices” for Engaging in Courageous Conversations

Person jumping

Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

Our November blogger, Andrew B. Campbell, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens University, shares with us a set of recommendations to navigate the difficult conversations that lead us to positive change

 

After being involved in a number of conversations at workshops, conferences, and in classrooms, I wish to share eight of my personal principles. Five are postures and positions I have developed throughout my practice over the years, and the other three are from Singleton & Linton (2006).

Share Your Story

Black people, like myself, visible minorities, LGBTQ, Indigenous and the “othered” who do this work, often feel the need to be careful and cautious, often doing this work within predominant white spaces. Story telling of others and self are powerful tools. Our lived experiences are valued. We live our stories. Often, our stories are situated and shared in deficit ways. It is therefore important and empowering to tell my own story. It is often one of the most courageous things we can do as we engage as our authentic self.

Come prepared to Learn

As I engage in courageous conversations, I am always prepared for learning. So much is happening and very fast, and it is therefore essential that we engage in these conversations from an informed place. Ignorance is poison to a courageous conversation. In the last three years, I personally have had so much learning around historical contexts, terminologies, identities and cultures. I am always excited to add something new to my toolbox. Learning is a change in behaviour brought about by an experience. How are we are changing?

Come Prepared to Unlearn

This process of unlearning is personal and calls for us to be reflective and reflexive about what we know and what has influenced our knowing. Nothing is more wasteful than people coming to conversations with deficit, oppressive or discriminating views, and after much engagement, leave with those same views. They consciously refuse to unlearn since they know that unlearning may cost them some loss of power, loss of privilege, provide truths they were not ready to face and force them to acknowledge others.

Check your Biases

The work to dismantle biases begins with you. It is an internal process. Way too often, when we seek change, we engage in an over dependency on policies, statements, and another checked-box. What we need is for us to foster a greater sense of self-examination within our work, knowing that acts of courage are centered on the individual and not a system. We change to change the system. Who you are impacts how you lead.

Stay Engaged

How many times do we hear of an incident of racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, micro-aggression, or any of the many “sisms”, and we share sentiments of shock and surprise, maybe engage in social media commentary and we move on. We move on very quickly these days and force others to move on as well. I have heard this statement many times, “are we talking about race again?” and my answer is always, yes! As a black professor, I am constantly engaged in the discussions on race. I do not get to skip it or avoid it. Each day I arrive at school, I arrive as a black man. We have to also sustain the conversation for many others inflicted and affected by institutionalized oppressive and discriminatory practices. We have to sustain the conversation for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised. We have to use the power, privilege and access that we have to sustain those conversations.

Speak Your Truth

Speaking your truth requires a willingness to take risks. Growing up in Jamaica, in a very homophobic environment, I learned how to not speak and live my truth. I knew my truth was dangerous and could easily cost me my life, family, and career. Today, as I engage in the work of equity, I am reminded of the power in truth, and I am also reminded of the possible danger in that very truth. Courageous conversations require truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Experience Discomfort

Courageous conversations will be uncomfortable at times. When I teach a class or deliver a workshop, and I sense that discomfort, I allow the participants to understand the value in that discomfort. I never hasten to change the topic or move away from it. I articulate the need to sit in it for a while. I remind them if these are issues that make us uncomfortable – imagine those directly affected and inflicted.

Move to Action

In 2016 Nike engaged in a courageous conversation and designed the first sport hijab to be worn at the 2016 summer Olympics. The Toronto Raptors made history by being the first NBA team to have their own licensed line of the traditional Muslim head covering. We have to engage in conversations that are tangible – conversations that lead to change.  We are big on conferences, workshops, seminars, councils, committees, symposiums and working groups. All that is necessary and needed, however, let us ensure our conversations are intentional and deliberate and lead to real action.

 

References:

Singleton, Glenn E. Linton, Curtis. (2006) Courageous conversations about race: a field guide for achieving equity in schools Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Justice Is Not Some of Our Work but All of Our Work

jon-tyson-1366338-unsplash

For our April piece, Curtis Carmichael, Queen’s alumnus and a respected community leader, talks about the need to move the conversation forward, from equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) towards an anti-oppression and anti-racism framework, in order to create meaningful change

 

I was raised in a lower income community in Scarborough. In these neighborhoods, underfunded by the government, we noticed that poverty was by design – structural. Schools in Toronto, like many across Canada, treated children differently based on their race and income. They funneled Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and lower income students into courses below their ability and disproportionally suspended and expelled these students.

In 2011, while studying at Queens, I noticed why students from communities like mine were underrepresented in universities but overrepresented in colleges. This was by design. Students from these communities were capable of excelling academically. The problems lay within the systemic barriers that limited their choices and access to opportunities. As a teacher and former Queen’s employee, I recognize that educational institutions often have a similar approach to diversity: to increase it without providing institutional supports to sustain it. Representation does matter; however, this alone is not enough.

Encouraging and promoting diversity does not do justice to diverse communities if systems are not put in place for them to thrive. To move forward for meaningful systemic change, Queen’s needs to move beyond Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). EDI has become popular and trendy in western discourses but it is not able to identify and remove the systemic barriers that were historically designed to exclude and further marginalize BIPOC communities. Specifically, we must move from EDI towards an anti-oppression and anti-racism framework. This will better inform the direction of the university as it establishes the institutional supports needed for staff and students at all levels. By using these frameworks, the barriers and processes that continue to perpetuate marginalization can be identified and removed.

Queen’s University has made strides forward; however, much is still required to establish the support for staff and students from underrepresented communities. Anti-oppression & anti-racism training must be provided with institutional support and accountability in order to drive meaningful systemic change. These frameworks need to inform all of our work, not some of our work. The first step toward change is to name the ongoing oppression, colonization and marginalization for what it is. We must name and understand systemic white supremacy, a system based on economic exploitation and structural exclusion of BIPOC by limiting their access to opportunities and resources. In short, Canada has racism so deeply embedded in our systems that we need as many people at the local and national level to disrupt our system to make changes. We need to uplift one another and each find our role in this fight for justice. We must choose to disrupt our system and make changes or we will perpetuate it by keeping silent.

“The system is not broken. It was built this way.” – Desmond Cole

Together We Are reaches its fourth year!

Another successful year for the Together We Are blog! Thank you to our bloggers and readers who gave so graciously of their time, creativity and passion. Without your energy and support the blog would not be possible.

In 2018-2019 our blog will focus on (re)imagination. Contributors will (re)imagine the institution, space and dream for the future. Over the course of the next year you will hear from students, staff and faculty reflecting on the challenges and accomplishments of the past as well as their respective visions for the future.

Oh and don’t forget, YOU are part of this conversation as well. Together We Are all part of the Queen’s and broader Kingston community and therefore your comments and feedback are welcome.