This weekend in unprecedented numbers,10,000 in London alone, peaceful and powerful Black Lives Matter rallies took place to protest against systemic racism.
Through these rallies and subsequent conversations, we are hearing painful accounts from those who have experienced firsthand racism and discrimination.
“I can’t even begin to name all of the times in the 18 years of my life that someone or something has made me feel less than because of the colour of my skin.” Simone Schact, one of the five young Black women who organized London’s Black Lives Matter Protest.
The following was shared with me this weekend from one who has also lived such an experience.
“If you have never experienced racial profiling, please don’t tell someone who has that it doesn’t exist. If you don’t believe in racism because you’ve never experienced it, ask someone who has. They will fill you in on what it feels like. I only ask you hear me with compassion, and openness and empathy. And I ask you do the same with everyone.”

To address racial discrimination and racism we must understand what it is. I found The Ontario Human Rights Commission fact sheet defining racial discrimination, race and racism to be helpful.
“There is no fixed definition of racial discrimination. However, it has been described as any distinction, conduct or action, whether intentional or not, but based on a person’s race, which has the effect of imposing burdens on an individual or group, not imposed upon others or which withholds or limits access to benefits available to other members of society. Race need only be a factor for racial discrimination to have occurred.
“Race” is a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), but like racial discrimination, it is not specifically defined. The Commission has explained “race” as socially constructed differences among people based on characteristics such as accent or manner of speech, name, clothing, diet, beliefs and practices, leisure preferences, places of origin and so forth. The process of social construction of race is called racialization: “the process by which societies construct races as real, different and unequal in ways that matter to economic, political and social life.”
Recognizing that race is a social construct, the Commission describes people as “racialized person” or “racialized group” instead of the more outdated and inaccurate terms “racial minority”. “visible minority”, “person of colour” or “non-White”.
Racism is an ideology that either directly or indirectly asserts that one group is inherently superior to others. It can be openly displayed in racial jokes and slurs or hate crimes but it can be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs. In some cases, these are unconsciously held and have become deeply embedded in systems and institutions that have evolved over time. Racism operates at a number of levels, in particular, individual, systemic and societal.
Despite the fact that Canada has made much progress, unfortunately racism and racial discrimination remain a persistent reality in Canadian society.
This fact must be acknowledged as a starting point to effectively address racism and racial discrimination.”
For each of us, moving forward, much work remains.
“It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.” Michelle Obama.