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Allyship Means Joining the Fight
With Mark Harrison—Founder, Black Talent Initiative
he minute we’re born, Black people are identified differently and treated differently. Why am I described as coloured? Why is White not a colour? Why am I a minority, automatically making you the majority? Why am I a Black Canadian, and you’re 100% Canadian?”
While some may attempt to dismiss these as semantic distinctions, they’re indications of the undeniable reality that Black people are treated differently than White people. “People need to deconstruct their organization, community and inner being to understand how racism exists and is unrelenting. This is no easy task—even for a visible minority, because racism takes many forms.”
To combat systemic racism in the workplace, Mark Harrison created The Black Talent Initiative—a community-focused, volunteer-led movement. The not-for-profit has a small full-time staff, dozens of volunteers from across Canada and the US, and a growing list of community and corporate partners. As of this month, the organization is supporting nearly two hundred people in their talent pool.
The most important thing an ally can do is lobby decision-makers.
“It begins in early years in the education system, where Black students are arbitrarily streamed, labelled and disciplined differently than White students. At the post-secondary level, everything from applications to scholarships and bursary applications is inherently subjective and open to bias. It continues in the hiring sector with a tendency to hire from the same talent pools and unconscious bias against names on applications and faces on social networks happens whether we’re aware of it or not.” But one organization can’t undo decades of systemic oppression alone. For true change to occur, it requires all of us to demand it.
“The most important thing an ally can do is lobby decision-makers. Corporate boards, elected politicians, government officials, educational leaders, police forces, universities, etc. The lack of push for substantive change among our society's leaders is the most significant gap I see.
“Many allies are willing to help, but are they willing to take risks? Are they ready to stand up for what they believe in and help balance the power system out?
“There’s an opportunity for you to help. The Black Talent Initiative is building a tent. In our tent are Black people, Brown people, White people, Purple people, Striped people—all sorts of people. We’re mentoring and advocating for Black Talent. We’re working with community partners and blue-chip corporations. We’re learning from one another. We’re fighting every day.”
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