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Algonquin College News

Speaker challenges audience to question accepted norms

June 16, 2020
Being "not racist" is no longer good enough. You must be antiracist, and it is time we seriously reflect on the changes that are surely coming to our society, Hamlin Grange told a group gathered for his webinar hosted by Algonquin College on Tuesday.

Grange, President and Cofounder of DiversiPro, has worked for more than 20 years in a wide range of sectors including corporations, notforprofit, media, law enforcement, health care and post-secondary education. He discussed the recent mass protests and demands for change which have enveloped the world since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“As we all know it took eight minutes and 46 seconds for a police officer in Minneapolis to extinguish the life of George Floyd. But what struck me was the casual way in which this officer went about his work. It was methodical. It was cold, hand in his pocket,” said Grange.

“We had his fellow officers simply looking the other way. Turning their backs, looking at the witnesses as opposed to looking at their own officer’s actions. For me that is what white privilege looks like. He knew he could get away with it.”

Grange was introduced by Algonquin College President and CEO, Claude Brulé, who said the campus is certainly not immune from racism and hate.

“When we look around us and see that some people in our community are hurting, it is in our values here at Algonquin College to care. But simply caring and watching with shock, horror and sadness are not enough. We must improve our ability to recognize the subtleties of racism, speak up against it, and adapt our practices – both personal and institutional – to eliminate it. We have some work to do,” said Brulé.

Grange asked attendees how they were feeling about what they are seeing. He said asking that question is an invitation to have a "real conversation" about the protests and how anti-Black racism and intolerance have affected people.

“And not just anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism as well,” said Grange. “The other day when I asked a white friend the same question, he said he felt groundless, that nothing seems solid anymore. Not to diminish his emotions, I said, ‘That's how many Black and Indigenous people have felt for hundreds of years in this country, groundless with little or any sense of safe harbour.’ ”

What we are witnessing around the world are the results of a system designed and built upon a foundation of oppression, racism, equality, and inequities, said Grange, who referred to COVID-19 as the “reckoning virus,” which has exposed the “soft underbelly” of so many of our institutions.

“For example, how we treat our elderly, the economy, criminal justice system, access to healthcare, even the education system… (COVID-19) exposed all the weaknesses that were always there. Of course, the pandemic also exposed the racial disparities around us in significant ways,” he said.

Challenging leaders to be culturally adaptive, Grange encouraged the audience to listen with empathy, and not fall into the trap of having minimization mindsets.

“Listening with empathy means putting yourself in that individual’s skin for that moment in time, and simply listening without judgement. Just listen. That is a very hard skill for individuals to develop,” said Grange.

Institutions will at times point to their diversity as a defence, but Grange insisted that minimization still occurs when we stop listening and paying attention to those differences. He said it shows up in unwritten policies and everyday practices, and challenged everyone, whenever they disagree, to stop and ask why, and genuinely explore contrary opinions.

“This is a unique moment in time. Some people are calling it a movement. Some people are calling it a revolution of sorts. I do not know. We will see what emerges. I am old enough to remember the tail end of the ‘60s and the ‘70s. This feels different. I'm trying to be optimistic,” said Grange.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Grange said it’s important we, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” adding that in so many ways, “We are at war.”

“The challenge is not to make the same mistakes. In challenging times, we must question accepted norms. Answers are needed now, and all the solutions may not necessarily be found in our existing structures,” he said.

The webinar was another in Algonquin’s series of Inclusion Infusion livestreams. Another taking place on Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. will feature a panel on race in education with Meghan Wills, Chair for Parents for Diversity; Tim McCaskell, author of Race to Equity: Disrupting Educational Inequality; and Pascale Diverlus, a communications specialist, digital strategist, educator and community organizer, who also co-founded Black Lives Matter - Toronto. The registration link is: