Systemic Racism, Diversity and Inclusion

by | Mar 11, 2021 | Formation, Reflections

Our Vinfam social justice reps have been discussing systemic change over the past few months and in our last call the focus was once again on systemic racism. As we continue our work on this important issue, I have been involved as the facilitator of a systemic racism working group we have formed for the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Canada. In forming this working group it was important to have members who were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) representatives. Eight of the current ten members are BIPOC. This composition provides the working group with the ability to have an open dialogue about systemic racism in Canada.

The working group has developed a pilot project which we have commences in the Ontario province of Canada with the hope that it will lead to a broader cross Canada initiative. The theme of the pilot is titled….DIVERSITY IS A FACT…INCLUSION IS AN ACT. We decided that using terms such as diversity and inclusion provided the project with a broader scope than systemic racism could provide while also having the opportunity to encourage the type of dialogue among members which is the first step to understanding systemic racism.

There are three reasons we believe the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, and all Vincentians, should take action on this issue.

  • The existing added barriers and challenges faced by our neighbours in need who are BIPOC and may include education, housing, criminal justice and food and job insecurity.
  • Catholic social teachings obligate us to take action, as they relate to the principles of the dignity of every human being, the common good and preferential option of the poor.
  • Social justice calls on us to advocate with and on behalf of the BIPOC community for systemic changes in the structural barriers that keep them living in poverty and having to face discrimination.

I would encourage every Vincentian to consider the gifts that may come from a more culturally diverse membership. What might we learn from a dialogue that allows for a better understanding of what systemic racism means to the BIPOC community? How might we work together to address the many inaccurate assumptions about each other? How might we help to educate our leaders to realize the need to make systemic change to our structures and ourselves?

Please look at the challenges of systemic racism as an opportunity to become more diverse in our communities, organizations, governments and personal relationships.