What do I do if I am experiencing anti-Black racism?

In combating racism, it is important that we learn to acknowledge and address injustice when we see it.

Racism is always present, but can be hard to spot. It can feel disheartening to be treated differently because of the colour of your skin. This is especially isolating if you live in a place where there aren’t many people from the same racial background as you. It is common for people to second guess themselves and wonder if what they are experiencing is racism or not. 

So, how do we recognize what racism looks like? And what can we do about it? 

Am I experiencing racism?

Black people, Indgienous people and people of colour may face racist attitudes by their peers, colleagues, and sometimes friends. Racist attitudes can look like casual, but still harmful, interpretations of negative stereotypes. It is important that we don’t remain neutral to racism, because it is not enough to “not be a racist” and increasingly important that we fight against racism and learn anti-racism. Racial injustice can look like many things.

Sometimes racism comes in the form of mistrust, like:

  • Being followed around in stores
  • Being stopped by police at higher rates
  • People locking car doors/walking on other side of the street from someone of a different race

Sometimes racism is “benevolent” prejudice, like

  • Being fetishized
  • Assumed to be good at certain skills (e.g., sports, music, etc.)

Sometimes, racism prevents success or denies people opportunities, like:

  • Lack of supportive relationships with educators, managers, etc.
  • Certain appearances/behaviour seen as “unprofessional”
  • Being forced to work harder with less credit

Racism can appear in many forms, and it’s important to figure out how to address and cope with this experience when you think you may be being discriminated against. 

Create a safe online space

The first step you can take if you’re feeling discriminated against is to look online for resources and support. It can be difficult to speak about your experiences, and being on a computer may give you the anonymity you need to comfortably explore your feelings about what has happened. That being said, it is equally as important that you are careful and browse information on trusted websites. 

There are many blogs, podcasts, social media accounts, forums, etc. that may help you find people and experiences that you can relate to. These shared experiences can often validate what you’re up against and make you feel less alone. Many people have also figured out ways to cope with the negativity in healthy ways, and their suggestions may empower you, too. 

Here are some podcasts you can check out:

  • Sandy and Nora: A podcast about politics. Sandy and Nora are feminist musicians, gifted program survivors and former choir kids who have thrown away all their talents to become activist political nerds. They are both brilliant and can both be funny. But Nora is funnier.
  • Colour Code: A podcast about race in Canada. If there’s one thing Canadians avoid, it’s talking about race. This podcast is here to change that. Join hosts Denise Balkissoon and Hannah Sung for a new conversation on race in Canada. We won’t have all the answers but we do ask bold questions.
  • Unreserved: Unreserved is the radio space for Indigenous community, culture, and conversation. Host Rosanna Deerchild takes you straight into Indigenous Canada, from Halifax to Haida Gwaii, from Shamattawa to Ottawa, introducing listeners to the storytellers, culture makers and community shakers from across the country.
  • Secret Life of Canada: The Secret Life of Canada highlights the people, places and stories that probably didn't make it into your high school textbook. Join hosts Leah and Falen as they explore the unauthorized history of a complicated country.

Seek professional help

Sometimes the racism you’re experiencing can take a deeper toll on your mental and physical health, or put you in danger. If there are people who are consistently treating you badly, it can affect your peace of mind. Depression and anxiety can have a physical impact, too, like changes in eating or sleeping habits. 

If you are experiencing racism, and it is affecting your wellbeing, try to find the courage to seek help from professionals. (e.g., helplines, counsellors, health professionals, lawyers, etc.). 

Here are some resources to find professional help:

  • Across Boundaries: leaders in providing equitable, holistic mental health and addiction services for racialized* communities
  • Black Legal Action Centre: a non-profit community legal clinic that provides free legal services for low or no income Black residents of Ontario
  • Black Health Alliance: a community-led registered charity working to improve the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada
  • Black Youth Helpline: a multicultural Helpline & Services for Children, Youth, Families, School Boards & other youth serving organizations

Build a strong support system

It’s important to research online and seek professional help when you need it, but in the long term, a trusted circle of loved ones can make a difference. You may need different kinds of support from different kinds of people in your life. Friends may give you a listening ear or lend a shoulder, while mentors may provide more clarity and guidance. 

Although it can be scary to start these kinds of conversations with people in your life, it can be rewarding as well to clue family and friends in on how you’re feeling. Make your circle as diverse and dynamic as your needs, and ensure you have an uplifting support system to get you through tough times.