June 18th, 2024

U of L building on Black inclusion

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 11, 2023.

The University of Lethbridge is celebrating Black History Month on campus, showcasing the achievements and contributions of Black communities.

Looking to push the message forward, the university chose to make this year about building a culture of authentic Black inclusion, moving from resistance to change.

On Friday, Jerome Cranston, Dean of Education at the University of Regina, spoke to the topic of “Building a culture of authentic Black Inclusion: how to become an anti-racist leader within higher education”, broadening the conversation of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

“Cranston is a critical race scholar who uses trans-disciplinary race conscious approaches to uncover educational inequalities and systemic racism, with a commitment to find solutions that lead to greater racial justice for those who are denied it,” said Martha Mathurin-Moe, Vice Provost of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

When discussing topics like racism, Cranston notes how it makes people feel, wanting to create a space for learning while acknowledging those emotions.

“We are going to be talking about Eurocentric white supremacy in higher education. There might be times where you feel uncomfortable, there might be times where it is sightly more than just uncomfortable. But learning at this level, with adults, is meant to be intentionally discomforting. It is hard to truly learn something if you are not challenged. I would ask you to lean into you discomfort before coming up with a ‘yeah but,’ or saying ‘I already know all of this,'” said Cranston.

Talking to the audience about the history of racism, Cranston went through a timeline of how our understanding of history is shaped by colonization and Eurocentric whiteness.

“The Doctrine of Discovery allowed colonizers imperial powers to set sail in ships, to what were supposedly unoccupied lands, and to take them, to claim them and to ignore the very people who are on them,” said Cranston.

“To ignore the history, from where we have come, is to make it impossible to find justice in the future.”

Speaking to post-secondary institutes, Cranston notes the ownership is on everyone.

“It doesn’t matter if you are racially white, Indigenous, Black, or brown. If you want to build an anti-racist university, everybody needs to own it. Everybody needs to be involved,” said Cranston.

“Restoring the anti-racism as a foundational leadership project requires people with power and authority to help move the needle, ready to widen conversations about anti-racism.”

Enforcing that narrative on ownership, Cranston pushes for those on the sideline with privilege to speak up against racism.

“You are afraid to speak up because you know there will be repercussions for doing so. You are afraid of being on the receiving end of the oppression you have witnessed.

“You are afraid they will talk about you the way they are talking about your black female co-worker . . . because there are benefits for being liked. You are afraid of challenging the system,” said Cranston. “If you are afraid, then you know what we know as Indigenous and racialized folks.”

Looking to inspire ideas and thoughts for how to make spaces more inclusive, Cranston’s talk helped show how equity, diversity, and inclusion can be instrumental in that process.

The University of Lethbridge will be hosting another Black History Month event on Feb. 13, a webinar on the topic of “Why EDI and Antiracism work matters”. Those looking to join in on the discussion can check out the website for more details at ulethbridge.ca/equity-diversity-inclusion/black-history-month.

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