In light of the issues brought to life by Black Lives Matter — both around the world and here in Victoria — Douglas asked Moussa Magassa, a specialist in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Human Rights and Partnerships at the University of Victoria, for his thoughts about racism and inclusivity in Canadian culture and workplaces.
Both at the university and in the community, Magassa works to educate people about these issues. To do this, he is part of several groups, including the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Committee, Resilience BC, the provincial program Organizing Against Racism and Hate, and the Victoria Multifaith Society, among others.
Douglas: In Canada, many people pride themselves on multiculturalism, but are we not as prone to systemic racism and discrimination on the basis of race as other countries?
Moussa Magassa: Yes — it is interesting that many people pride themselves on multiculturalism in Canada. Sadly, the first of these people are those who also espouse multiculturalism because it places their culture at the centre and other cultures as an addition. Multiculturalism for many Canadians is white culture and its tolerance of other cultures, with the condition that the latter play by its rules and so-called Canadian values.
Racism and discrimination is, however, embedded in this kind of multiculturalism mindset — and it’s systemic, cultural and societal. It justifies white supremacy, continuous colonization of Indigenous land and Canadian political correctness.
Douglas: Binna Kandola, a British business psychologist and author of Racism at Work: The Danger of Indifference compares racism to a virus that lingers in organizations because people have internalized racist stereotypes. What are your thoughts on this?
Moussa Magassa: I totally agree with her. I am even surprised why racism has never been recognized as a crime against humanity and a social pathology. I really think we need to start dealing with racism clinically because it is worse than a virus. We usually develop treatment for a virus, but the racist often hides behind the status quo provided by the system, the culture and the society.
It is also emboldened by privilege, power and other intersections. The excuse of the racist is ignorance and fear. Unfortunately, as I have said in other situations, the racist is not ignorant or fearful of the Black man in me, he/she is racist because he/she thinks she can get away with it. Racism benefits the racist …
Douglas: There has been a great deal written lately on microaggressions. Can you talk about what these are and how they undermine inclusivity?
Moussa Magassa: Microaggressions are everyday insults and indignities against Black people and other BIPOC. To dismantle microaggressions, we also need to dismantle the culture of white supremacy and white essentialism. We need to disrupt the racist beliefs and attitudes embedded in the culture and the system that supports and legitimized that culture as a universal value.
Douglas: There has been a great deal of discussion about Black Lives Matter, particularly following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. What is the most respectful way for businesses to support this important movement?
Moussa Magassa: It is important for businesses to not take advantage of George Floyd’s death and the voice of Black Lives Matter and turn these into business opportunities. Businesses and organizations should really do this work from the heart by bringing in the right people who can help them learn, understand and develop strategic ways to really implement genuine change in their businesses and people.
Continue Reading: The Black Experience in Multicultural Canada