In my circle of friends and colleagues here in Canada, the colleges I have attended, the professional organizations to which I have belonged, I can honestly say that we, as individuals within the group, are not a part of systemic racism. We see individuals of every race, every culture, as equals and as colleagues. We value their contributions to the common cause of making this world a better place to live. With a few exceptions (very few) African Canadians, are not discriminated against by the individuals within my circle.

I think I know what people who are angry at the system are saying: that my circle deliberately or perhaps subconsciously prevents more people of color from getting into the professions. However, this is a question of social-economic factors rather than that of racism. Again, I understand what people who are angry at the system are saying: that the system deliberately or subconsciously prevents people of color from getting the education or obtaining the resources needed to move up in society. Certainly that is something that needs to be looked into to see if we can make the necessary changes in the system to prevent that from happening.

When it comes to the question of African Americans, the United States with its history of slavery and segregation has some huge hurdles to overcome. Do these same problems of segregation exist in Canada? Certainly, but not as a systemic, historical problem. Can we do better? Of course we can, but the problem is manageable, if we have the will to do it.

The major problem of systemic racism in Canada applies more to indigenous peoples than African Canadian. Speaking from the education profession, as a former educational psychologist and reading specialist including several years working with indigenous people, I approach this whole question from two levels. First, it would be paternalism of the worst kind to water down the professional programs so that every indigenous applicant is hired regardless of their achievement and abilities. That would just be assuring that the system will go on perpetuating itself. We have had enough of that. It is not fair to the bright indigenous students to give them a second rate education. However, we do have to change the system in other ways to insure that applicants can be successful while maintaining high standards of achievement. This means starting from the ground up. We need lower pupil teacher ratios and teachers with the highest skill levels who know what they are doing in the classroom while still being mindful of individual and cultural differences. We need team teaching where indigenous and non-indigenous teachers work together in the same classroom or with the same group of students. We need to find, prove, and employ methods and programs to be used with indigenous students in mixed or indigenous classrooms. Success can also be systemic. We just have to keep persevering until we get it right.

My profession is only one profession. Each or us, each group of professionals – teachers, the medical and the legal professions, engineers, trades, and entrepreneurs – whatever your gift your talent, we need to work together. We need to share those gifts and talents. We need to share ourselves. We need to view each other through the eyes of love. We are one family.

Brothers
We are brothers, my friend, we are brothers.
We are sisters, my friend, we are sisters.
We are family.
I see you.
I see your need.
I see your struggle to succeed.
I feel what you feel,
The wind on my face,
The sun on my back.
I understand like you understand.
We perceive; we reason; we act,
And celebrate the consequences.
We may have different values.
We may have different ways of seeing things,
But we all want to be valued and accepted.
We want our work to be important.
We want to contribute; we want to share.
We want to have our views and contributions validated.
We want to work together
With one mind, one purpose,
With one heart, one soul.
So come and let us sit down together
And listen to each other
And really hear what each other is saying.
Let me share my successes, my sorrows,
And I will eagerly embrace your successes , your sorrows,
And together we will make this world a better place.

Lawrence J.W. Cooper

Poet Laureate, Comox Valley