Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate: Love, Fear and Loathing

Is it possible to feel love, fear and loathing after hearing a single message? On February 16th, 2016, the tension between these seemingly incompatible yet co-existent emotions was suddenly real to me. I was glued to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s televised announcement about the creation of an anti-racism directorate in Ontario. It wasn’t lost on me that this announcement was happening half way through Black history month and I loved the obvious connections. I wasn’t even phased by the 10 year delay in making an anti-racism directorate a reality. Actually, this past year’s headlines were evidence enough that an anti-racism directorate needed to exist in Ontario (eg.Practice of police carding). In fact, I was and still am, totally in love with the idea of Ontario taking a significant leadership role in addressing racism in Canada. That being said, I was quite concerned (that’s code for I was afraid) that such an important initiative was announced without a budget. Actually, truth be told, days later, I am still worried that this initiative could be sidelined due to the absence of a budget. I am crossing my fingers that next week’s budget will reflect the support I heard from all three parties and be allocated some measure of funding.

As a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, I loathe the idea that racism still plays a role in separating hard-working, well intentioned people from full participation in all aspects of society. All Ontarians should be able to work, volunteer and support the interests which align to their values. It is crystal clear to me that when barriers like racism impede possibilities – action must be taken. It is imperative that individual fundraisers, and I hope AFP, seize this opportunity to stand behind this significant step toward eradicating racism in Ontario.

We must be bold and intentional in our enthusiastic pursuit of education aimed at sensitizing all fundraisers to the issues which create barriers for diverse communities to contribute to solving the problems which the causes we champion seek to address. Frankly, we must embody the Latin meaning of philanthropy which is the love of humankind1. It is everyone’s business to promote full participation and citizenship without any qualifiers.

Change is challenging at best and without focused attention, it is slow in coming. I am steadfast in my belief that fundraisers need to be at the head of this change. Truth be told, developing spaces and more importantly workplaces which are free of the unconscious bias which plagues decision makers should matter to everyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality or any other dimension of diversity.

It is imperative that fundraising professionals use this announcement as a catalyst for planning and more importantly action. It is time to stop asking members of diverse communities who use the majority of their energy to advance themselves and their families to fight racism alone. Instead, every individual, decision maker, key influencer and more importantly donor must walk in solidarity against any behaviors or attitudes which relegate diverse Ontarians to the roles of bystanders.

Ultimately, none of us are immune to unconscious bias, it is a virus that can affect anyone.
We must use education and in particular unconscious bias training to shift inequitable power dynamics along lines of race and other dimensions of identity. Harvard Professor Dr. Mahzarin Banaji provides helpful insights into unconscious bias with Project Implicit which she has co-lead since 1998. If you would like to test your implicit understandings about several dimensions of diversity including race and sexuality take one of the tests at: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

The AFP and the Fellows in Diversity and Inclusion are poised to make a difference. The time is now to shape the future we want to see. I hope that you will join me and stand up and be counted in the fight against racism. I have chosen not to be silent on this matter and I hope I can count on each of you as an ally. Let’s break the silence and create a wave of change which will strengthen philanthropy and Ontario’s future…

  1. The AFP Fundraising Dictionary Online, p. 93. The Association of Fundraising Professionals, Copyright 1993-2003.
  2. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, Vol. 85, No. 2, 197–216 Copyright 2003 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-3514/03/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.2.197 http://faculty.washington.edu/agg/pdf/GB&N.JPSP.2003.pdf