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Breaking Barriers Through Brave Conversations. (Episode 2 of 5)

We continue the conversations and facilitate honest, raw, authentic dialogue about equity and diversity in basketball. The overall goal is to make the culture of basketball more inclusive involving various stakeholders in the community including players, coaches, and officials.

"Being Black in the World of Basketball in Canada"

Race, is the "elephant in the room in our country" - one that has come charging into the locker rooms, on basketball courts, in the stands, and at executive tables on many occasions.

Of all sports, basketball is arguably the most obvious place for an unvarnished conversation.

Even before the horrifying death of George Floyd triggered a national reckoning, like America, Canada's problem with race has deep roots - with the country's foundation tied to the near extermination of one race of people and the enslavement of another. Yet as recent tragedies confirm, we continue to suffer from the legacy of racism. The old patterns of white privilege are colliding with the changing demographics of a diverse nation.

The video below highlights a group of individuals that have mixed experiences in the basketball community. Whether advocating for inclusion, access, fair play or intentionally looking for the open doors to opportunity, they have proven that one doesn't have to just play basketball to become someone or to become a significant person in the community.



The next time you engage or encounter a Black person, note what adjectives first come to mind. Now, do the same for non-black people. If the adjectives are different, ask yourself why. For the Black people, did you think of stereotypes such as innately violent, criminal, intellectually inferior, apathetic about family and community, or, yes, athletically gifted?

How would life for them be different if you viewed them in a way that was not stereotypical?

Anti-racism is usually structured around conscious efforts and deliberate actions to provide equal opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level. As a philosophy, it can be engaged with by acknowledging personal privileges, confronting acts and systems of racial discrimination, and/or working to change personal racial biases.

The heart of racism is denial. You cannot acknowledge or change that which you deny or choose not to see. Thus, the first step toward dismantling racism is breaking through that denial, by educating oneself about the history of Black people and the Black experience.

Anti-racism is a way of life. Like starting any new habit, anti-racism requires a conscious decision to pursue it as a goal and way of being. Intention brings mindful presence and awareness to what we say and what we do.

Setting the intention to have an open heart and open mind in order to be anti-racist affects how one shows up. Present-moment awareness links with our intention to pull us out of autopilot and into conscious pursuit of our goals.

To be anti-racist, you have to sit with the discomfort and put courage, compassion, and vulnerability over comfort. When we feel uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure, that's when we're most vulnerable. It takes courage; it takes learning how to be brave and afraid at the exact same time. But courage allows us to be an everyday hero and to inspire collective heroism.

This opens the door to growth.

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. One must hold all groups of people — a color, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, age, and any combination of those — as equal.

To champion equality is to fight for equity. It is to understand that corrective action is needed to create equity.

Cultivating empathy. One of the easiest ways to nurture empathy, is to share experiences. In doing so, we soften the boundary between self and other.

It’s this empathic concern that prompts us to improve someone else’s well-being. Empathy creates correlation and it breaks down the us and them divide. Empathy increases shame resilience because it moves us toward connection, compassion, and courage — the opposite of the fear, blame, and disconnection that result from shame.

Finally, become an ally. To be an ally is to take on this conflict and connect to it as if it's your own. It means that you do what is uncomfortable. When you see something, you say something. You imagine and act as if you do not have a choice. You fight to dismantle injustice.


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