Coady Institute Executive Director Gord Cunningham shares how we have a responsibility to take part in the dialogue on racism in our society.

Eight Minutes, Forty-six Seconds

This week many Americans are taking 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to reflect on systemic racism in that country. This was the length of time it took a white police officer’s knee to squeeze the life out of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is a moment to do more than reflect about what is happening in the US. We have to look at systemic racism within our own local context whether it is here in Nova Scotia, or anywhere in the world, and speak out against hatred, injustice, and inequality in all its forms.

The principles of the Antigonish Movement call for the dignity of human beings and for social reform through education so that social progress comes through the action of people working together. This is a moment for such action, as silence is not an option and only perpetuates the abuse. It is a time for real, authentic conversations and a time to educate ourselves, and those around us, on how best to continue to act against racism.

Imagine the dialogue with family or friends, if we all took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to watch two short video clips and began a deeper discussion about racism. You can watch either a video of Carrie Best or Viola Desmond and a video of Donald Marshall Jr. in less than the time it took that police officer to end the life of George Floyd.

For those of us in Nova Scotia, Carrie Best and Viola Desmond are two African Nova Scotian women who each in different moments had the courage to stand up against the racism they faced and refused to leave a “whites-only” section of a movie theatre in the 1940s. Another video to consider is about Donald Marshall Jr. a Mi’kmaq man wrongly convicted of murder imprisoned for 11 years until his release and exoneration.

If these videos inspire you to dig deeper into the systemic nature of racism in our Province a powerful resource is the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution. There are 16,390 pages of transcribed testimony and 82 recommendations about what to do to address systemic racism in Nova Scotia.

The history and context is different in every Province and in every country. But in every country there are stories that can be starting points for deeper conversations about concepts such as implicit bias, what empowers and enables individuals and institutions to behave the way they do, and what makes racism so pervasive.

Systemic racism isn’t someone else’s problem to fix. We are all responsible and it is incumbent upon all of us to take our own share of responsibility for ending it.