As part of the University of Toronto Covid-19 Student Engagement Grant, I was awarded, with two colleagues, a grant to facilitate an online panel discussion. This discussion is centered on helping educators create and foster safe and equitable spaces for students online.
When applying for the grant, I was excited about the chance to become part of a conversation that is timely, essential and much needed.
During our planning process, my co-organizers asked if I would like to be a panelist or a moderator–I started to answer, then stopped. It didn’t feel like it was “my conversation”. I know, that’s a complicated sentence. It has layers. I did not want to be that white person on a #bipoc or #educolor panel. The person that does not fit.
The topic is too big. The optics are bad. The implications are challenging.
But, at the same time: I want to be part of that conversation. I want to explain that I am not only a colonialist white privilege educator. I am nuanced, too. My partner is a Canadian Black Jamacian British man who is integrally ‘in’ this conversation as he navigates as a thought-leader in Human Resources for a multinational Canadian organization; and as he negotiates in his own sphere of personal influence as a father, friend and mentor. My children are mixed-race: Canadian and Caribbean with their own shades of nuance, navigating daily in what ways their own spaces personally and professionally. My granddaughter is a very minority Asian-Black-Canadian-Caribbean living with her bi-racial father and her Asian mother in a space that is often openly hostile. I have been a victim of a violent crime perpetrated in a country largely because I was a minority. I have been privileged to help disadvantaged women who were abused largely because they had no legal standing in a country where they fled to better themselves and their children.
At the same time, I have a story too that reflects some of the shades of colour and longing for equality and inclusion that we will talk about on August 23. But, still, the optics are bad. The implications are challenging. The topic is too big.
I like ‘in OUR shoes’. I’m not sure how my own shoes fit right now. I’m not even sure if they are the right shoes or I am choosing the right paths. But, I’m excited about being in this journey together, walking alongside my racially diverse family, my #bipoc friends, my indigenous colleagues and my culturally diverse students. About taking some steps forward. About making new possibilities and pathways. I’m excited about THIS conversation and I plan to be part of it. You should too.
In Our Shoes – Looking at Your Online Course from an Diversity and Inclusion Lens on Monday, August 23 from 7 PM-8:30 PM EST (90 minutes).