It’s Happening Here
The last two months have brought to the forefront just how ugly privilege can be. While many suffered, billionaires increased their wealth amid COVID-19. US police allowed white people to show up and protest armed with assault rifles, then people of colour (and their allies) protested unarmed and met tear gas, rubber bullets, arrest, and worse. Black and Indigenous people (Chantel Moore, Regis Paquet, Jason Collins, and more) have been killed by police here in Canada in the last couple of months. Politicians called for restarting pipeline construction because protesters can’t gather during the current COVID-19 restrictions. And here in the Okanagan, swastikas were painted on public property.
Systemic privilege and racism create oppression in Canada. You’ve heard the stats. 30% of incarcerated people in Canada are Indigenous and 22% of homicide victims are Indigenous despite making up on 5% of the population. Incarceration of black Canadians rose 77% from 2005-2015 while white incarceration dropped by 6%. Residential schools. No clean drinking water for First Nations. Japanese internment camps. And more and more and more. Racism and privilege are alive and well in Canada.
I am privileged. I’m a white Canadian male who grew up with education and opportunity. I don’t live in fear of getting sick, being harmed or abused at home or when I walk alone on the street, or being unfairly treated because of gender, race, or other things out of my control. I have the privilege to choose to build a company. While decades of systemic inequity have caused oppression for some, it has enabled privilege for me.
The light that shines on privilege is blinding me. It is ugly to hold up the mirror. I am repulsed by how some are using it to deepen their privilege and divide and oppress others. I’m aware that my own circumstance gives me privilege, some that I can see and feel, and some that I am blind to. And that my privilege comes at the expense of others. I do not know all of the effects of my own privilege.
What Are We Doing About It?
I can do better, starting with Purppl (Purposeful People). Purppl works alongside many people who are changing the systemic and structural issues that create this oppression. We’ve learned that the systemic inequity around economic and social wellbeing is a major contributing problem to racism, gender equity, climate change, poverty, mental illness, and more. These movements are all connected to the underlying systemic inequity of economic and social privilege.
Grassroots leaders in the social enterprise and social innovation movement are building solutions to these major systemic challenges. Purppl’s role from the beginning has been to enable and accelerate those who are leading (quietly or overtly). We will continue to empower and amplify those leaders.
We can do better. 70% of organizations we work with are led by women, but only a few by Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC). We will add more diversity on our team, our board, and in our client mix by purposely seeking it out. We will challenge norms in fundraising, philanthropy, and impact investing; in many ways these traditional structures keep privilege in the hands of few rather than create equity for many. We’ve already met with one of our community partners / funders to begin making changes. We will write, speak, and act with more conviction. We will listen harder, reflect often, and act decisively. We need to become an anti-racist organization, not just an ally.
Purppl started because we could see the undercurrent of economic privilege destroying our people, planet, and communities. The last couple of months, and especially the last couple of weeks have put a spotlight on that ugly privilege. We will not stand idly by.
I welcome your suggestions, comments, and convictions. I know I don’t stand alone in these thoughts.
Humbly in solidarity,