Black Lives Matter – A Personal Response

Abena Perryman
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A Personal Response to Black Lives Matter

Once I entered the working world I quickly learned three topics to stay clear of: sex, religion and politics. Often, people’s beliefs are so deeply entrenched that emotional and sometimes irrational reactions are inevitable. However, the events of the recent weeks and renewed focus on “black lives matter” have compelled me to raise my voice in forums where I normally wouldn’t express my social – political views.

Racism. Police harassment. Discrimination.

I am a Canadian born, self-employed, married for 20+ yrs, mother of two hailing from the African-Caribbean diaspora. With 2 degrees from a top Canadian business school, I would be considered educated. My parents hoped that my education would protect me from the harsh realities of white privilege. That was not the case.

Let’s not kid ourselves – racism is alive and well in Canada.

Here are some hard stats from an Ipsos Reid Poll on racism:

  • almost 50% of Canadians believe it’s ‘OK’ and normal to have racist thoughts,
  • 49% of Canadians think that racism is minor or ‘not really’ a problem

Bias and Racism at Work

As a person of color I know better. A Catalyst study found 33-50% of people of colour feel they have to be “on guard” at work.

Within a business setting, I have experienced bias and racism at work. I have been:

  • told I speak English very well,
  • asked what country I come from – “really”, and
  • considered ‘overqualified’ for jobs, 

in addition to more accounts of discrimination.

So what? Well for one, the emotional toll is exhausting. This narrative needs to change. It’s time for real organizational and personal accountability. People need to become self- aware through education and commit to doing better. Across industries, and across areas of life, whether it’s in: education, health care, government, arts or business. The organizations and systems upon which systemic racism has entrenched itself need to change.

Black lives matter.

Racism in Hockey - What My Family Experienced

Last weekend I shared on my Facebook page my family’s experience with discrimination in hockey.  The response of support was overwhelming. There was realization by many in my network of what discrimination looks like when it’s not wearing a white sheet and slinging racists terms. 

So I share it again, below to add my voice to the conversation.

A Pivotal Moment in History

Why do I choose to write now? I’m writing on the topic not because I’m an activist, but because I am a mother, wife, sister, and cousin. Things will only change when people who look like me speak up and out against racism and discrimination. With the overwhelming support the reoccurring question I received was: “How can I help? How can I be part of the solution and not part of the problem?”

As Jane Elliott has said, “Racism is learned, so it can be unlearned.”  Here are four educational resources (in no particular order) for those interested in understanding the roots of the problem and how to be more anti-racist:

This is a pivot moment in history. Racism is learned. Discrimination is taught. Your silence is deafening. The weight of oppression is making it hard for me to breathe. #icantbreathe

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