We Need To Talk About Anti-Racism and Disability

June 5, 2020

Today, we all need to talk about what we’ve been scared and uncomfortable to talk about for a really long time.

White people – we need to talk about racism.

As a cis-gender white male, I was born into a lot of privilege in our society – and I’ve had white fragility when it comes to talking about racism.

I want to take a moment and acknowledge global protests for black lives matter and social justice. This is an important moment in history. This is one of those moments where we are going to look back at our lives and think about where we were – and what did we do? What did we stand for?

We often think these horror stories of racism and injustice are across the border in the United States; however, Canada has deep issues of racism and anti-blackness, from slavery to the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples. And today, systemic racism and oppression is present in our Canadian institutions.

If real social change and a shift to equity for all is going to happen… White people are going to have to get uncomfortable and talk about racism and become allies in the fight towards change.

I’ve become aware that it is not enough to be “not racist,” that we must be anti-racist.

An anti-racist is a person who opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.

Unless we are anti-racist, racism will continue.

I get it – as a white person – this can feel hard, and it takes effort.

But – let me ask you… What is worse – you and I being uncomfortable? OR black people, indigenous people, people of colour and people with disabilities being murdered and beaten on the streets?

We need to stand up and acknowledge our conscious and unconscious biases, and the harm we are causing with our ignorance.

As a disability advocate, I’ve been reflecting on the social justice conversations I’ve been a part of – and race has never been a part of the disability dialogue. As a disability community, we talk about inclusion – but black people, indigenous people, people of colour and people with disabilities are often missing in the conversation! We are operating in mostly white spaces.

In the disability community, we also need to talk about and understand intersectionality, which is A person who is affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. Intersectionality takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of the prejudices they face. So, for example, a black person with a developmental disability will face even greater discrimination and devaluation.

Yes – there is a lot of learning and work we need to do…

Will you start to do this work with me?

I’m calling you in – I ask you to have the courage to step into the conversation on racism, and to be an anti-racist. We can no longer be silent because our silence is resulting in violence.

I’m committing to having these conversations about racism, showing up to diverse events to learn, and advocating to governments and organizations to change racist policies.

I invite you to post a comment below, join the conversation, and share how you will take action as an anti-racist.

I’m Eric Goll of Empowering Ability – thank you for listening and getting uncomfortable with me.

Here is what I am doing to continue to educate myself and be part of the change:

1) I’m continuing my learning by taking Rachel Cargle’s 30 day “Do The Work” course. The link is here if anyone wants to sign up: https://instagram.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e7528b5266e654d0ce83c211d&id=1e469b88c0

2) Continuing to read. The current book I am reading is: How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi. https://www.amazon.ca/How-Be-Antiracist-Ibram-Kendi/

3) I’ve joined the ‘The Anti-Racism Community Collective’ group on Facebook. Link is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/259398002045838. The advocacy work being done to demand change to racist government policies will be posted in this group. The leadership of this group is in the Kitchener/ Waterloo area – a community I spend a lot of time in.

4) I’m having a dialogue with my community.

5) I’m starting a dialogue with other disability leaders to find the best ways and collaborate to support this change.

  • Hello! I am excited you have shared this! I work in the developmental disability sector and am so aware this work NEEDS more attention! Do you have connections with articles on racialized staff providing services in developmental disability agencies? So much thanks! Sue

  • YES! Racism is the big elephant in the room among professionals in the developmental disabilities community as well. I am working on developing a training for individuals with developmental disabilities around racism and how to be anti racist and looking for resources!

    • I don’t have resources for you. I stumbled onto this thread looking for some resources. I work with group homes for adults with disabilities and many of our white staff use racist language to express anger at the staff, most of whom in this area are black. It can be very vile and hateful. We are hoping to institute zero tolerance across the organization, and am looking for resources to guide this in the homes.

    • Hi Stephanie! I would love to get information on what you have put together. Can you please email me to talk further?

  • As a member (I’m average height, my son has achondroplasia dwarfism and is Black), of Little People of America, we are seeing instances of racism and exclusion within the community. We could use help.

    • Hi Jo, I am sorry to hear you are experiencing racism and exclusion. Are there other local organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, in your area that you could ask for help?

  • A friend of mine shared some research done at York Universit on racialized mother’s – Project Video: Mothering at the Margins: Towards an equity-based health promotion framework for racialized mothers of children with developmental disabilities. Click the link -> https://nkhanlou.info.yorku.ca/

  • Eric: Your supportive and courageous comments are appreciated. Yes one needs to be anti-racist for a starter. Add to that
    racial tolerance, sympathy, empathy and kindness toward every human being. Non-whites can protest in many ways, but when
    whites in large numbers join us and work with us to end these shameful social Canadian practices, there is a chance that authorities
    will be forced to act to end this outrage. Once we have broken our silence and had conversations, let us not stop there. Words, dialogue mean nothing unless we collectively act on it to stop social injustice. How do we achieve this. By educating all sections of society who are responsible for this social injustice, police, politicians, general public, and by advocating collectively to bring social reforms, demand changes to existing laws that tend to protect those in power who commit racist crimes. Eric since George’s
    murder and martyrdom, the world is doing exactly this. Sometimes human sorrow, helplessness and outrage erupts in violence,
    but all the marches, public protest gatherings, today’s I cannot breathe rally in Toronto I believe are one of the means to achieve
    and bring about this change. The more people gather out there peacefully, the mega numbers of human voices raised in defiant
    challenge to current social injustices, be they Vulnerable blacks, coloureds, our elders whom we should be respecting and nurturing
    with devotion in their twilight years, our disabled our mentally challenged who had no choice in the manner of their births, these
    defenceless souls who are dependent on human kindness, decency and caring for their survival, we could never have sufficient
    number of public rallys, and citizens protests to eradicate these evils that has been firmly established here. It will take monumental, consistent, non-stop public protests and marches until the politicians who have looked the other way for decades are compelled by “people-power” to change the laws to protect the vulnerable. So the momentum of this movement should not be allowed to die
    down with time which is what the politicians are counting on. History teaches us the “power ” that persistent public possesses.
    Can we each and every Canadian continue to periodically keep up these demonstrations of human protest and demand for social justice and equality for every Canadian in mega numbers in the streets, at Queen’s Park, and in Ottawa?
    Or will all this die down after a few days and our efforts sink into oblivion until the next racial outrage? Eric I send you this question can we collectively come up with an answer? Can we all count on each other in the future?

    • Hi Manjula, I completely agree with you! We need more human compassion!!

      These protests are a powerful way to mobilize change – but there needs to be more. I was at the protest in Kitchener June 3rd, and MPP Laura Mae Lindo made this same call to action. What are we committing to next? She suggested we need to flood the Premier and federal government with letters demanding change. In the coming days, I’m expecting to see more resources on the messaging and how to do that. Additionally, we need to do our own individual work – and by we, I mean white people. Leaders also need to look at their own organizations and ensure representation and voices are being heard.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts… and the thoughts of others following this thread on what we are going to do to create lasting change.

      • Hello Eric:

        I have a few thoughts on this crucial issue. Others may have more suggestions which we would like to hear as one
        strong group committed to end discrimination. Continued public rallys, peaceful protests in the streets, at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa demanding drastic changes to Canadian laws to ensure equality and justice, empathy, and understanding for all, including the weak and vulnerable in our society. Public presence in large numbers of whites and non-whites is a very powerful tool as it drives home the fact that the public will not give in or give up on this issue until the laws are
        changed. Politicians are just waiting for all this to die down so they can revert back to their old ways of preferential
        treatment. Government is working very hard to find a Vaccine for Covid-19 pandemic, but they could not be bothered
        to find a cure for our deadlier discrimination pandemic. It is up to the public you and I and all of us to bring about this changeand if we “hang in there together” we will succeed and not have to “hang separately” .
        Another way is use the internet to start a Public Petition and start collecting signatures in large numbers to send to Queen’s Park and Ottawa demanding the laws be changed. A Petition with hundreds or thousands of signatures is a very powerful medium of expression of public outrage which the politicians cannot afford to ignore.
        Another method is have the public call their premiers flood their phone lines with calls, have the public write letters in large numbers to Provincial Premier Mr. Ford and Prime Minister Mr.Trudeau sending them a message that the Canadian people will not quit. Let Ontario be the pioneer in this and the other Provinces will follow suit. For the first time in decades let the politicians know that we the public care, we want a society free of discrimination for our children, we demand a change of laws.
        The politicians “divide and rule” days are now over. All Canadians without exception unite to make a New Canada where theonly word that is used will be Canadian, a nation where every human life counts and is precious. It should be a
        punishable offence for anyone wielding the reins of power to consider a single human Canadian as “Dispensable”
        an evil, ugly, inhuman and repulsive word that has been expressed publicly and justified during this pandemic.
        Eric since you have initiated this movement, and called for us to join in I would request you to form a committee of volunteers devoted to this cause and start implementing the suggestions that are being presented to you. The iron
        is hot now, this is the time to strike and strike hard to shape the society of the future, free of discrimination, equal opportunity for all, compassionate and protection for every vulnerable and mistreated Canadian , honesty and integrity to replace double standards that have poisoned our Canadian society.
        Eric we are now through with Talking the Big Talk, we must Now, before it is too late Walk the Big and Difficult Walk to
        rid ourselves of this social cancer. Thank you and we wait for you Eric to assume the leadership in this venture and
        take action. You will find many to help you.

        Manjula Das

        • Hi Manjula, I agree that now is the time for action! There are many groups, such as Black Lives Matter, leading the charge on the protests and the ongoing action/ political reforms needed.

          As a white person, I’ve learned that I can be a supporting voice and a voice for change, but not the leading voice. I need to support and help to elevate black people’s voices and the voices of other marginalized groups.

          I’m continuing my learning by taking Rachel Cargle’s 30 day “Do The Work” course. The link is here if anyone wants to sign up: https://instagram.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e7528b5266e654d0ce83c211d&id=1e469b88c0

          I’ve joined the ‘The Anti-Racism Community of Canada’ group on Facebook. Link is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/259398002045838. The advocacy work being done to demand change to racist government policies will be posted in this group.

          I did not initiate this movement. I will not take credit because that would be discrediting the work that many black people and people of colour have been doing for decades. However, I am dedicated to amplifying the voices and work being done.

          My call to action is for all of us, white people, to have the courage to do this anti-racism work.

          Also, I’m starting conversations with disability service organizations, and advocates to discuss how we can continue to educate service providers and families and move forward. I also recognize that these aren’t my conversations to lead – because I am white. I can play a supporting and facilitating role, but I can’t be the leader/ educator.

          I’m committed to taking action by continuing to learn and using my privilege to support the change.

          with gratitude,

  • Thank You, Eric. As an American of color who works with people with disabilities, I appreciate your message and efforts to affect change. Please keep us informed on how we can keep this conversation going.

    • Hi Andrea, Thank you for your kind message. We all have to do our part and my hope is that this message encourages more white people, and disability leaders to learn more about anti-racism.

  • Hi Eric

    Your message is incredibly powerful. You touched on so many points that are not often openly discussed (intersectionality and discrimination of people based off of their ability, race, socio-economic class, gender, age). My greatest respect and gratitude goes to you for stepping up and beginning an uncomfortable but necessary conversation on racism and it’s intersection with disability. I support your cause and stand with you in your voice for change. Please let me know how I can join your conversation and challenge the systemic racism experienced by our society.

    • I’m glad this message was helpful for you. I see you and I hear you. We need to do better – this is just the start.

    • Hi Eric, Thank you for this important message. I identify with being a person of privilege and although my son has experienced prejudice and discrimination, as you said, it is nothing compared to what people of color experience. I am deeply concerned about what is happening, yet I haven’t known where to start to make a difference. Your words challenged my passivity today. I appreciated your comment that saying I am not racist is not enough. Thank you for your courage and honesty.

      • Hi Lee, I appreciate your courage to speak up as a white person. I also appreciate you acknowledging the prejudice and discrimination that your son has experienced. When our family member has a disability – we have felt discrimination – even if our family member is white. Our families can empathize with what if feels like to be discriminated against. But – even though there are similarities, it is different – and we all need to understand those differences, and to understand structural racism. We also need to start talking about race in our disability communities. I’ve posted the learning resources I’m currently working on myself above at the bottom of the blog post. They might be of help to you and others who are committing to the work to be anti-racist.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}