Inclusivity- Doing the Work vs Tokenization

I’d like to offer up this perspective that I believe is part of the divide between white people & POCs when it comes to talking about/acknowledging racism. It is this: 

The truth is this: If you are not actively dismantling white supremacy & its bedfellow patriarchy, you are upholding it. It is that simple. Same goes for ableism, transphobia, etc. 

We are tired of being gaslit. Tired of being told we’re too sensitive, we took it the wrong way, it was a joke, you have a black friend, etc etc etc. 

Here are a couple of real life stories that may help you to understand how you must start by believing POC when we tell you that you are causing us harm. It is not only the macro, it is the micro. It is the tokenization vs true inclusion. They may help you to understand that we are not being hateful when we say we don’t trust (some) of you. We are simply speaking our truth. We are tired both emotionally and spiritually. And for those of us like me, who live and work in a predominantly white region, the amount of holding that I must do daily has taken its toll so much that I consider sleeping on my dad’s couch in Toronto so I can have access to more safe places. 

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Story 1 

You are a person of colour. Your “friend” and sometimes colleague asks if they can get some advice from you. You oblige. 

They were recently looking at photos from an event their arts organization holds annually and were noticing that it was a “sea of white people”. They say they want to be more inclusive. They wondered why people of colour don’t come to their event & wondered what they could do  to attract some. They ask you if it would be ok to get stock photos off Google that have people of colour in them and use them on their website as a way of attracting more POC. You explicitly tell them NO, that that would be false representation. You suggest they hire a person of colour to be a guest on staff. They say they’re not sure they can afford that and are unsure of what the other leaders will say. You suggest they add a page to their website called something like “Artists We Love” with photos and links to their websites & make sure to include POCs. 

Fast forward a month or two. 

You are working at an event with this person & you notice they are giving out flyers for the aforementioned event. You notice that the event is doing well enough to be offered two times this year. You notice that there are guest artists/teachers. THEY ARE ALL WHITE. 

You are deeply disappointed. You say nothing. 

Story 2 

A genre specific music conference decides to hold a panel on “decolonizing” said genre of music. It has two panelists. They are both white. 

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How can you be serious about being and/or learning how to be (racially) inclusive without including people who are not white? It baffles my mind. 

If you are serious about creating a world that is equitable for all, I hope this may spark some digging. Not just around issues of race. We can all look for ways in which we perpetuate ageism, ableism, heteronormative stereotypes, etc. We can do better. And we must.

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