Margaret Anne Enders (left)

Margaret Anne Enders (left)

Dirty Laundry campaign works to wash away racism

Dirty Laundry. Everyone has some dirty laundry that needs washing from time to time.

Dirty Laundry. Everyone has some dirty laundry that needs washing from time to time.

So after splashing around ideas in brainstorming sessions over the past few months it seemed appropriate that Dirty Laundry surfaced as the ideal title for a new anti-racism campaign that is rolling out in the lakecity this week.

The campaign is being co-ordinated by the Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch with the help of a $10,000 grant from the provincial government.

“We don’t want this to be a shame and blame campaign,” says Marilyn Livingston, CMHA multiculturalism co-ordinator. “We want to lift up the community.”

The idea of the campaign is to educate and engage the community in learning about the causes of racism and what we can all do to make our community a more accepting, tolerant, caring and happy place in which to live.

“We are all products of the cultures and families we grow up in,” adds Margaret-Anne Enders, also a CMHA multiculturalism co-ordinator.

“This is an opportunity to learn and become more aware and sensitive to other people and other cultures.”

She says the campaign is also an opportunity to examine how people may form opinions about other cultures based on ideas they think are facts but may not actually be facts.

“We can do some myth busting without laying blame,” Enders says.

Starting now and running into June the Dirty Laundry campaign will include stories and information about racism in the Tribune/Weekend Advisor, on local television and radio stations, as well as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

There will also be posters and displays set up at various public and private buildings around the city. T-shirts (laundry) are also being made up with various words and slogans on them to highlight various aspects of racism and encourage the flow of thought and conversation about the issue.

As part of the campaign the Tribune/Weekend Advisor will include a feature story on this page every two weeks about some aspect of racism. There will be personal accounts from people who have experienced racism as well as from people who have valuable information that others can take to heart in their own struggles to understand the issue. “I was taught at home when I was young that we are all the same; we are all human,” says Virginia Gilbert, an elder with the Williams Lake Indian Band who will be telling a very interesting story about her time in residential school and going on to become a counsellor who has worked to help rebuild the lives of many First Nation adults and teens who have been impacted by racism.

Last December, CMHA co-ordinators started meeting and holding brainstorming sessions with representatives from about 20 different community organizations which are supporting the campaign and now form part of the new Cariboo Chilcotin Racism Awareness Network, explains Livingston.

She notes the Dirty Laundry campaign has the support of School District 27, Thompson Rivers University, Cariboo Regional District, City of Williams Lake, Cariboo Friendship Society and many other community organizations and interested individuals.

A few years ago CMHA worked with other community groups to publish a cookbook promoting multiculturalism called Spicing up the Cariboo.

In this book more than 45 Cariboo Chilcotin residents, of various cultural backgrounds, interweave their tales of hardship, celebration, love, and resilience with more than 100 traditional family recipes from around the world and here at home.

“This time we want to work around celebrating diversity and helping people to understand that we are all stronger when we embrace other people’s cultures and differences,” Livingston says. “Racism is sometimes not intentional. People are just not aware that what they say is offensive to other people.”

In their research she says they found that Australia is doing a considerable amount of work to stem racism and provides the following quote from the Australian research that sums up the damaging effects racism can have on a community and a country.

“Racism can have serious consequences for the people who experience it.

“It can shatter their confidence and their sense of worth.

“It can undermine their ability to perform at work or in their studies. It can also affect their physical health and life expectancy.

“More broadly, racism locks people out of social and economic opportunities, entrenching disadvantage.

“It adds unnecessary costs to our workplaces and our economy and it works against our goal of building a fair, inclusive community.

Ultimately, racism hurts us all.”

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission, National Anti-Racism Strategy: July 2012.