By Leela Madhava Rau
Living under the stresses of a global pandemic has only exacerbated the tensions already existing for marginalized communities across Canada. We see racism and violence directed toward members of our University community — based on their lived, and perceived, identities. There is no room in our hearts or action for anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, anti-Chinese or anti-immigrant sentiment. We have no time for harassment and discrimination.
We are witnessing the birth of an uprising, not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and Europe. Systemic racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, is being named as a root cause of inequities with which people have been living for centuries. The disproportionate death rate from the pandemic even graphically illustrates these facts. People are in the streets demanding nothing less than total change: not only the ability to live their lives without the ever-present threat of violence, but the opportunity for everyone, regardless of identity, to participate fully and equitably in societal structures.
Education is one of the areas where Canadians should expect equitable treatment. Equal access to education for all is a key step to creating a society that is fully equal for all, and Brock University has made a commitment to foster a culture of accessibility, inclusion, reconciliation and decolonization. Situated on land protected by the Dish with One Spoon and Two Row Wampum agreements, traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, we are an institution rooted in Niagara but connected globally as part of a UNESCO Biosphere. We honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and recognize we are in the middle of the International Decade for People of African Descent.
Those recognitions give our University the responsibility of fulfilling our guiding value to recognize the dignity of each person and their right to live life to the fullest. We build inclusivity and equity through understanding and respect for diverse identities and reflect this in our approaches to teaching and learning, research and creativity, administration and service provision, and community engagement.
We have been speaking about adopting a framework of cultural humility.
Cultural humility is a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust. As expressed by First Nations Health Authority, cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience. Cultural humility requires empathy and vision. As a campus community, we embrace these values as we honour everyone who calls themselves a Brock Badger.
Be safe; be well. Use your voices and think about how we can live the values in the Dish with One Spoon and Two Row Wampum Agreements. Humanity does have the power to change, ourselves and the world.
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Leela Madhava Rau is the Director of Human Rights and Equity at Brock University.