What does being an ally mean to you?

OPSEU/SEFPO President 'Smokey' Thomas speaking

Millions of Black people around the world, face discrimination because of their colour of their skin.

We often celebrate Canada as a multicultural country. But that doesn’t mean that racial discrimination doesn’t live here.

That doesn’t mean that systemic racism isn’t in every workplace, and in every sector.  That doesn’t mean that Black people in Canada aren’t subjected to hurtful, damaging, and exhausting discrimination on a daily basis.

To be an ally in ending systemic racism, we must listen, learn, and act. Listen to the experiences and contributions of Black people. Educate ourselves on Black history and about Black experiences. Take action to stop racism.

At OPSEU’s Anti-Black Racism teletown hall last week, I heard questions being asked that I’ve asked before as well. Questions like “what is systemic racism?” “How does it affect my colleagues?” “What does it mean to be an ally?”

I encourage all our members to ask these questions, do your research, and to turn to people you like and trust to help you understand better.

I’ve always found that any issue that the union tackles, needs to start with education.

We must do the work to educate ourselves and the people around us. We must work to uncover and face our biases, and we must be intolerant of intolerance.

As the leaders of OPSEU, we will do our part to eliminate systemic racism by taking these 3 steps: agitate, educate, and organize.

We will agitate those areas of our society that are resistant to change. We will educate all levels of our union and our employers about racial equality and inclusivity. And we will organize to fight against systemic racism.

The best way to celebrate multiculturalism in Canada is to fight against discrimination. We need to stand with Black people and take conscious action to end systemic racism.

It is up to all of us to create a world today that we can all be proud of tomorrow. Standing by silently will NOT cut it anymore.

I haven’t had to face the struggles that Black people in this country do every day because of the colour of my skin. I have not experienced anti-Black racism. But I can be an ally for change.

I didn’t choose the colour of my skin. But I can choose to work with Black people to fight the scourges of racism and discrimination.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU President

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