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You can't have cake because you're Black.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. To observe this day, I am sharing a glimpse into some of my personal experiences of racial discrimination. Moms Against Racism is dedicated to uprooting bias that leads to racial discrimination and dismantling the systems that perpetuate it. I hope you will join us.

Hands of various skin colours and tones together layered on top each other in a circle beside the words International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Because racial discrimination exists, and I have had a lifetime of experiencing it, every interaction I have gets filtered through my racial lens.

This was the answer I received when, at 7 years old, I asked the birthday kiddo why I didn’t get a piece of cake like everyone else.

Since then, I have experienced racial discrimination in both big and small ways, daily. Simply put, racial discrimination is treating someone differently, or poorly, because of the colour of their skin. When this discrimination is systematic and includes a power imbalance, we have the system of racism. When an act of racial discrimination occurs, we name it as racist. The word racist can be used both as a verb, describing an action, or it can be used as a noun to describe a person. The ending -ist means “one that performs a specified action or produces a specified thing”. In this case, that specified action is racial discrimination.

Not all racial discrimination is as clear, or overt, as what I experienced at seven. Most times the incidents are not accompanied by a “because you’re Black” which can make it easy for people to miss or dismiss the harm.

About a year ago I needed to go to Emergency at one of Victoria’s hospitals. Like many racialized people, I won’t go unless the situation is dire. Already in a vulnerable state, stepping into a hospital can feel like stepping on the racism battlefield without any armour. This time was no different.

I arrived to an empty waiting room and was immediately treated like a burden. I was spoken to gruffly. My intake was done by a nurse yelling across the room to me, shouting all my personal information, as I am doubled over in my seat in pain. Once admitted, I needed an IV and I tell them I need the IV team (whether it’s the colour of my skin or that I have small veins, they always struggle to get one going for me). They go tell the shouty nurse I’m asking for the IV team. She LOUDLY says in a very dismissive tone, “They ALWAYS say they need the IV team”.

The pain causes me to faint. I regain consciousness and then my body goes into shock and I start shaking violently. I feel I might faint again when shouty nurse gets in my face and yells at me “Why are you being like this?! Stay still and stop being difficult”.

In this instance there was no statement that she was treating me poorly because I am Black, but it sure felt racist.

Because racial discrimination exists, and I have had a lifetime of experiencing it, every interaction I have gets filtered through my racial lens.

  • Was that person scowling at me because they are grumpy or because they have bias towards people of colour?

  • Did that person cut in line ahead of me because they are generally rude or because they see me as worth less?

  • Did that person walk in and then immediately walk out of the bathroom because they forgot something or because they saw me, a Black person, there?

If you are a racialized person, chances are you can deeply relate. If you are not a racialized person, chances are you have, at one point, thought or said, “not everything is about race”.

But, for me, it is.

Today, Monday, March 21st is the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is a day to remember, to learn, and to re-commit to taking action. Ending racial discrimination starts with each one of us becoming aware of, examining, and rooting out our racist biases. It ends by us working together to change the systems, policies, and societal norms saturated with racism that continue to perpetuate racial discrimination.

I invite you to make a personal commitment to take action. And, while unlearning and learning are an extremely important part of the process, they are not to be confused with anti-racism action.

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