$100K grant to BU CARES will investigate racism and anti-racism in Manitoba

October 20, 2020

A Brandon University research project to combat racism in Manitoba has been selected to receive just over $100,000 in federal support from Canada Heritage.

The project, housed in BU’s Centre for Aboriginal and Rural Education Studies (BU CARES), will create and distribute videos on social media that explore different experiences of racism, educate people on racism and bias, and support anti-racist actions.

Portrait of a woman smiling.

Michelle Lam, Director of BU CARES.

“Through research, we know that minorities face greater challenges, which aren’t always visible to everyone,” says Michelle Lam, director of BU CARES, who is leading the project. “Our videos will help bring those disparities to the forefront, to continue challenging the perceptions of racism, and to launch discussions about how we can all improve.”

As an example, she says, one video may feature two mothers giving birth — a white woman and an Indigenous woman. While the nurse attending the births is kind and compassionate to both mothers, she only asks the Indigenous mother about her plans for transportation and whether she has supports at home. Another might show people exiting a supermarket, with a security guard who only stops visible minorities to ask for receipts. She plans to end the videos with the hashtag #thisisracism, which will become a central hub for discussion and education.

“We want to speak against the common understanding that racism is only a personal act of hatred and expand that definition to include benefiting from a broader system that privileges certain groups,” Lam says. “For example, our fictional nurse is not full of hatred, nor did she explode in a racist tirade. Yet her implicit bias still contributes to a system where certain groups have different experiences than others.”

She says the project will represent minority groups including Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, and religious minorities.

The project is based on a successful series of Australian videos, several of which went viral. The BU project will create a whole new series of videos that is centered in the Canadian context. Called Viral Vitriol? Using Online Platforms to Promote Peace, the project was one of just 85 selected by Canadian Heritage, out of some 1,100 proposals.

“Through Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, introduced in 2019, we are funding projects to combat racism in all of its forms. These projects will help address the systemic barriers that are preventing Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, and religious minorities from participating fully and equitably in all aspects of society,” said the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Canada’s Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. “We will continue our work as allies and partners with racialized communities to combat racism as we build a better and more consciously inclusive society.”

The first step for Lam’s project is a survey to ask people who have witnessed racism in the past 12 months to complete a description of the incident. She’ll use those stories as the basis for video scripts, which will then be tested with a diverse group of cultural representatives. Finally, she will work with a professional videographer to create the videos, and then collaborate with a marketing and social media team to promote the videos online through targeted campaigns.

For more information, please contact:

Michelle Lam
Director, Centre for Aboriginal and Rural Education Studies (C.A.R.E.S.)
204.727.7331
LamM@BrandonU.ca

Grant Hamilton
Director, Marketing and Communications
204.571.8542
HamiltonG@BrandonU.ca

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