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Shalini Sinha is not here to make Canadians feel comfortable about our work to date fighting racism.
Progress? What progress?
But take note: Nor is she a flame-throwing activist. She makes a point of not blaming individuals or calling anyone racist. It’s complicated.
Sinha says, however, that the political polarisation of today makes discussing race more difficult. People are frustrated, angry and fearful. The mood is oppressive. BIPOC people are afraid to speak up or assert themselves.
“To me, we’re not at a healthy moment here,” says Sinha, an anti-racism advocate and educator, who lived half her life in Ireland and was part of the Irish delegation to the European Network Against Racism.
Sinha was the first chair of the City of Edmonton’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council. Sinha threw herself into the role, volunteering long hours and empowering other committee members to create a credible advisory voice for city council.
She even appeared before city council to demand remuneration for her committee members who were devoting considerable time and money to get the initiative off the ground.
She won that battle before the city council. But did she lose the war? The Anti-Racism Advisory Council was put on pause by the civil service several months back.
“We were not being loud and rebellious and divergent,” she says.
Still, she continues her anti-racism work. She’s writing a book on the subject. And she agreed to join Erick and Scott on the LiftEd Podcast to share her experience, values and optimism.
Racism, she says, is closely tied to colonialism. No one alive today is to blame for centuries old systems. In fact, most of us suffer under inequitable systems of power and dominion.
When we label individuals racist, she says, we miss the point and give a pass to historic power structures.
“I think everybody needs healing from this,” she says. “I talk about the joy of anti-racism. If racism is painful and violent and harmful, anti-racism must be connecting and loving and affectionate.
“It means we get to be side by side with each other in a human community.”
Even people of wealth and privilege lose under the old power systems, she argues.
“The more money you have the taller the walls or gates you live behind. What human aspires to live in that much fear – in that much isolation?
“The thing that surprises me the most is … that people really don’t understand how positive anti-racism is for everybody.”
About Shalini Sinha Shalini Sinha has 25 years professional experience consulting in the area of anti-racism, gender, intersectionality and equity. In this time, she has learned to keep things simple, create practical steps and work to bring everyone along – that is, everyone who wants to come. She loves working with leaders who care about climate and social justice and want to create some form of transformational change in their organizations – no matter how small the first step or where it is they are starting from. Through her company, Inclusiv, Shalini supports leaders and organizations to develop an equity lens, strategy, education, policy and communication. She has an academic grounding, and currently teaches in Gender Studies at MacEwan University on topics such as feminism, intersectionality, antiracism and decolonization. Shalini chairs the City of Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee, and is Chair of the Board of the Pride Centre of Edmonton. While she was born and grew up in Canada, Shalini has lived half her life in Ireland, and was a member of the Irish delegation to the European Union to help establish the European Network Against Racism. She was delighted to be asked as a ‘Change-Maker’ speaker when His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Ireland, and to have delivered her TEDx Talk, ‘Are you Consciously Creating a Culture of Respect?’ She is a talented speaker, writer, academic, entrepreneur, consultant, single-mother, and 2SLGBTQIA+ person living with disability. She is currently writing a book on her approach and contribution to the antiracism conversation.