Systemic Discrimination

I’m part of the system. I’m Canadian by birth, white, and generally speaking, I have many unearned privileges. So, I ask myself, how can I stop myself from falling into the trap of being blind to those who are not as privileged?

I know this topic is sensitive. I have about 500 words to get a small point across, often within a complex subject. This Blog intends to reach out to my readers, who may struggle with the idea of a systemic problem with racial discrimination. I chose to write about discrimination that might sound more familiar and put it in a systemic context.

I’ll use my observations of the prospect of summer jobs for young adults. When I was younger, I saw how invisible the path to summer jobs was for some families. Invisible can be replaced with the word normal.

There were often 2 parents who had employment. They both might be in supervisory positions or were on friendly terms with supervisors. A parent asked for consideration for a summer job position of their child. The youngster had easy and free access to fax and photocopying functions to produce a resume. Often the child was hired directly or hired through contacts in other positions.

This gave those young adults something priceless, to add to their resume. This made the next job search just one step easier. And so on. Applying for educational or training opportunities were enhanced with this experience. It showed they were interested in the field, had necessary workplace skills, and more.

Another more recent example in the workplace has to do with comfort. Canadian Sports Teams don’t have a very open hiring system above the front-line player recruitment. It appears, from newspaper reports, to often be based on who knows who. The coach is hired from a small group of possibilities by team management. The coach, in turn, surrounds himself with a staff group he is comfortable with. When is the last time you heard of any hockey team who was considering multi-award-winning Hayley Wickenheiser? It took a long time. Thankfully, the Toronto Maple Leafs stepped out of their comfort zone and hired her as the Assistant Director of Player Development.

I can’t prove it, but if the awards and track record she has accumulated were adorning a male, there would have been a bidding war for her services.

Systemic discrimination is hard to spot. It can easily be dismissed. It can be rationalized away. Yet, it is persistent.

We all have a chance to make a difference. We need to get off the sidelines, though. Currently, the focus of system discrimination is about black participation in society and long-standing legal discrimination mainly displayed through policing and the justice system.

Each of us can take a moment to think about system discrimination. Have you seen examples? Ask others? We each can take a stand against discrimination. Speak out against humour that promotes stereotypes. In discussions with friends and family, stand your ground and speak out.

My thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association: 780-459-0433 for making this Blog possible.

Glenn Walmsley