Racism is still prevalent in Canada and the US


George Floyd protest in Uptown Charlotte
© Clay Banks | Unsplash

Racism. It's a word we have only recently begun to talk about openly. The meaning of which differs depending on your skin colour and shade, and your country’s segregation policies. For non-coloured folks, it’s often an uncomfortable headline to debate about.


Unfortunately it’s an insidious reality that continues to pervade our headlines whether in Israel, Syria, Canada or the US. Last week we lost 12 people in buffalo, NY to a racist, morally bankrupt 18 year old, the week before a beloved Palestinian journalist was assassinated, weeks before that African students were denied boarding of trains in Ukraine, Syrian refugees still squander to survive at neighbouring borders, not to mention Jews, Latinos and Asians in the US have all been under increased attack.


Specifically in the Black community, we see barbaric acts of violence against Black folks by both civilians and police. However the more subtle forms of racism constitute being judged and not given access to opportunities based on their skin tone. Resources are distributed based on what we have come to know as systemic racism – the invisible (or ghost form) of racism. Such as residential segregation, and barriers to homeownership.



Is racism still prevalent?



The obvious fact is that racism is still present and most visible in white-dominated regions where there is some presence of the Black community or other non-white groups.


In his article “Is the United States still a racist country”, Rashawn Ray describes a deep presence of what he calls [beneficial] deference based on socioeconomic status.

“Black people are less likely to get that deference, while white people are often afforded more. It is so commonplace for white people that some cannot fathom living without it. This is because many white people, particularly white people with lower levels of education and income, realize that whiteness comes with a premium that extends beyond economics to include cultural and social capital.”


When you think carefully about it, it is not difficult to see vivid examples of racism today. In fact, here are seven real life examples backed by statistics.



What is the face of racism in the US today?



According to research by brookings.edu, in 1940, 60% of black women worked as domestic servants. Today, the number is down to 2.2 percent.


In 1958 44% of whites said they would move if a black family became their next-door neighbour. Today, the figure is merely 1%.


And the pattern continues across other individual niches. What we see is a gradual positive transformation from a history of slavery and racism propelled by sensitization and modernization. You could say DEI efforts have been yielding some tangible benefits over the years. Still, we must do even more.


The pain of systemic racism is still felt by Black and Brown people especially in institutions like justice, healthcare and education. Sometimes, it’s not difficult to think whether we simply moved from a society that is obviously racist to a society that is covertly racist. That is what we once spoke of when referring to the difference between racism in the US and racism in Canada.


A dear friend of mine who moved to Canada 30+ years ago from south side Chicago likes to describe it as economic racism in Canada and social racism in the US.



How is racism in Canada different from racism in the USA?



Black girl protesting in Quebec
© Marie-Michèle Bouchard | Unsplash


Canada is more culturally diverse than the USA which is different from racial diversity. The slave history in Canada narrates the existence of close to 4200 slaves in Canada between 1671 and 1834, many times less than in the USA.


However Canadian immigration policy was also much different than that of the US and there were major influxes of Caribbean and African immigrants from the 1950s onward. The mentality behind immigrants coming to Canada and bringing their heritage with them versus that of the US where the focus was more on ‘leave all that you knew behind’ and ‘become American’ has significantly affected the cultural expression of those immigrant groups in both countries. However both countries were built on similar colonial foundations of white supremist groups that perpetuated racist law for centuries. So how do those still affect us today?


In 2019, General Social Survey (GSS) recorded more than 46% of Black people (above 14 years) reporting experiences with some form of racism in the last 5 years. More than 40% of Black people experienced discrimination based on their skin tone. A 2016 report from Statistics Canada says that Black men and women were 10% less likely to hold a bachelor’s degree compared to the rest of the population. Blacks in Canada also experienced an unemployment rate that is 150% higher than the rest of the population.


Those are painfully hard stats, but they describe an experience that real people face and unfortunately continue to face in Canada.


Ontario.ca explains anti-black racism as prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping and discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and its legacy.


There’s also anti-indigenous racism described as the “ongoing race-based discrimination, negative stereotyping, and injustice experienced by Indigenous Peoples within Canada.”


That’s a handful of definitions, but they tell one story, that racism still exists, and that it is embedded deeply within the fabric of our North American societies. When people are treated preferentially based on their lack of being white, we get a society that hardly develops on all fronts. The consequences are present on both individual and socio-economic levels.



Being anti-racist is the only way



Embodying anti-racist values will help you take the right steps towards addressing the bias we all have. We must continue with actions that help fight against systemic racism such as educating ourselves on the effect of systemic racism by speaking with those who have first hand accounts of these experiences. Ensuring school curriculum correctly reflects a more accurate history in order to shape more equitable workplaces, institutions and society. Supporting DEI work that teaches folks to become more aware of these harmful biases and practices through active learning, and how to apply these principles in your everyday work so that your team can grow.


We shouldn’t deny the progress we have made so far. Yet the present is painfully obvious that we must continue to grow. As our global workforce expands it’s imperative that companies and employees are equipped to work and thrive in multicultural teams and that’s our specialty.


Find out how Tough Convos can help your organization whether in the US or Canada to achieve anti-racist objectives using key DEI principles and our proven methodology. Book an initial call to see where we can meet you on your DEI journey.