Anti-Racism work more important than ever 

Recent violence a reminder of the ongoing, pernicious presence of racism, and the magnitude of the work required to confront it.  

Just over a week ago, an armed 18-year-old in Buffalo, New York, fueled by white supremacist ideology, attacked a grocery store on a Saturday afternoon aiming to take as many Black lives as he could. He murdered 10 innocent people and wounded three others. This week, a shooting at a primary school located in Uvalde, Texas killed at least 20 people, most young children. While this tragedy does not appear to have been racially motivated, the children at this school were predominantly from Hispanic, economically disadvantaged families.

These are unspeakable crimes. Canadians reflexively, might perceive these as episodes more characteristic of American realities than our own. The fact remains, hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, with the largest proportion of these targeting racial and ethnic minority populations.

These are broad social phenomena, and some might wonder what they have to do with the university context. Our answer is: “everything”. Universities are both reflections and drivers of wider social norms and ideologies. Systemic racism and racist beliefs, which persist across a range of institutions and organizations, are not shed at the campus gates. Racism and other forms of discrimination remain in our midst, and it behooves us to acknowledge and address these forces with humility, empathy, and perseverance through the most constructive and effective means possible. What’s more, universities have the promise to stimulate and lead social change, by the knowledge we develop, advance, and disseminate, and by training generations of students who become tomorrow’s leaders. In a nutshell, universities offer a privileged setting for elevating social consciousness about what inclusive communities look like, and who bears responsibility for building and sustaining them.

And yet, it seems that we are constantly reminded, sometimes in the most terrifying ways, of the ongoing, pernicious presence of racism, and the magnitude of the work required to confront it.

Nearly two years have passed since Principal Fortier announced the mandate given to Provost Manfredi to establish McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism (“Action Plan”)

Since that time, the McGill community has taken up the charge to understand and address – through concrete and meaningful measures – anti-Black racism. Efforts across the university to implement the Action Plan have been serious and purposeful. The recruitment of nearly 20 new Black faculty across all faculties, with a commitment to deepen representation even further in the years to come, has the potential to transform our university in multiple, positive ways. Likewise, recruitment efforts within Human Resources have resulted in increased representation of administrative and support staff. McGill has also reached population-level representation among Black students from Quebec, while launching further outreach programming to support preparedness of prospective Black students. Student Services has played a key role developing measures to assess and address the needs of Black students. The establishment of varied networks, resources, and mentorship focused on the experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff are designed to enhance support and build a sense of community and belonging for Black colleagues and learners across McGill. All of this complements important work underway to advance McGill’s Strategic EDI Plan, which aims to address equity issues more broadly. In short, we are starting to see some progress at McGill.

As we double-down on our efforts to advance equity and anti-racism at McGill, we must also remember to care for ourselves and one another, especially when we learn of unprovoked acts of violence in our communities. This is particularly the case for those for whom such events can give rise to vicarious trauma. For many racialized persons, such trauma is experienced as pervasive and part of daily life, exacerbated by the tragedies like those we have discussed here. Do not hesitate to reach out for support at any time. Resources are listed below.

McGill remains steadfast in its commitments to equity and anti-racism. Reminders of the magnitude of the work necessary to uphold these commitments are as frequent as they are chilling. This work calls for all of us to play a role, and we look forward to our ongoing collaborations with you, the members of the university community, in our collective efforts.

Resources for Staff:  

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)  

  • Confidential assistance for a range of personal and work-related concerns including personal stress, job-related stress, parenting issues, financial or legal problems, separation and loss, substance abuse.  

 

Resources for Students:  

Student Wellness Hub 

  • Offers a variety of support resources for McGill students. Book an appointment with a counsellor by calling 514-398-6017 or with a Local Wellness Advisor directly online.   
  • It is possible to request support from a BIPOC counsellor. 
  • Learn more: https://www.mcgill.ca/wellness-hub/ 

Keep.meSAFE 

  • A 24/7/365 mental health counselling service available to all McGill students in Montreal or abroad. To access this service, download the MySSP app in the Apple AppStore or Google Play or call 1- 844-451-9700.  
  • It is possible to request support from a Black or BIPOC counsellor. 
  • Learn more: https://www.mcgill.ca/studentservices/mental-health-support-keepmesafe 

Black Student Affairs Liaison 

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Julie Wong
Julie Wong
3 months ago

I support this article fully.
However it still breaks my heart as an Asian Canadian that this article took the time to honour everyone but made no mention of the rise of racism against Asians nor of the California shooting that happened as the same time as the others. Say no to AAPI hate and bias, McGill.