On Equity: An interview with Ruth Mojeed Ramirez

October 20, 2021

Chloe Sjuberg
Communications Coordinator, SFU Public Square

The views and opinions expressed in SFU Public Square's On Equity interviews are those of the interviewees. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of Simon Fraser University, SFU Public Square or any other affiliated institutions in any way.

The On Equity interview series is part of our 2021 Community Summit Series: Towards Equity. In these interviews, you’ll get to know people working towards equity, justice and systemic change from a variety of fields and perspectives, and learn how you can support them. We hope they will inform and inspire your own conversations and actions towards equity.

Read on to hear from Ruth Mojeed Ramirez, founder and chief equity officer of The Inclusion Project, a social innovation network and resource hub for organizations, communities and institutions engaged in knowledge development and practice to further racial equity, diversity and inclusion.

What do you want people to know about your work in pursuit of equity, justice and systemic change?

I want people to know that systemic change is a process—one that requires commitment, collaboration and a collective responsibility to be and do better for people whose voices have been historically misrepresented, underrepresented and unrepresented.

 

How do we make systemic change?

Systemic change, as it relates to racial equity, is not about numbers. Systemic change begins with shifts in attitudes, perceptions and behaviours that pave the way for a more collective approach to lasting change. It has to be a holistic and collective imperative that paves the way for intersectional and interdependent solutions to long-standing inequities.

 

What does equity look like to you?

Equity is about relational accountability and (re-)distribution of power. For me, as a Black woman, equity is about agency and empowerment. Equity is belonging; it is access to opportunities and resources that may have been otherwise denied or far-fetched because of historical ills and injustices. Equity is about representation—of voices, perspectives and lived experiences that are as vastly different as they are commonly related.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the guiding question for Towards Equity: What must we understand—and do—to recover equitably from the pandemic and reimagine our systems to confront the intersecting crises of inequality, systemic racism and climate change?

The pandemic has presented a unique opportunity for us to grow together and re-imagine our collective future. Moving towards equity means we are taking an active stance on rewriting past narratives and making efforts to correct the wrongs of today. Historically marginalized and excluded groups and peoples continue to be further marginalized as the pandemic is revealing the gaps that exist in our systems. Women, youth and racialized people continue to be left behind, as people with the privilege of adaptation continue to shape our post-pandemic realities. "A new normal" would not be new for everyone; for many, it will only be a re-discovery of the stark reality of marginalization, exclusion and helplessness with common and normalized realities of the compounding and intersecting effects of racial inequities, climate change and systemic racism. Feelings of being "left behind,” even when unvoiced or unacknowledged, will ultimately impact our ability to build back better or meaningfully address the issues that affect us all.

 

What gives you hope? What inspires you?

It gives me hope to see equity-deserving groups coming together, in solidarity, to support one another in their respective efforts towards collective justice. I am happy to see Indigenous peoples stand with Black people, and vice versa. I am inspired by the power of our potential and the undeniable, unmistakable power in our collective story.

 

Do you think there is more potential for systemic change at this moment in time? Why?

I think the seeds of change have been sown, and growing them requires unwavering commitment. While we wait, we must continue and not relent. We must find allies and collaborators, and form alliances that transcend our differences. This, I believe, is where the potential lies for lasting systems change.

 

Many people are passionate and concerned, but also unsure of how best to take action. What can people do? Can you recommend actions to help our readers direct their energy?

Many racialized people are on a journey of transformation, developing knowledge and building capacity from their own lived experiences. From this journey stems a grounded expertise that is unique and potent for transformational change. Allied expertise is the result of collaboration and commitment to better ways of being, doing and seeing the world. This kind of expertise begins with humility and a willingness to know and seek out understanding that may be different or even jarring to what is familiar. Allies need to do the work to learn, unlearn and re-learn how to engage and what it means to do so in the efforts towards systemic change. Be humble. Seek out other ways of knowing, being and relating. Be open to the change you will experience along the way.

 

What should we be reading? Watching? Listening to? Please recommend books, articles, podcasts, films or other media you think people should read/hear/watch on topics surrounding equity and justice.

 

What individuals or organizations should we be paying attention to and how can we support them?

Indigenous-led organizations, including your local Native Friendship Centre (if applicable). Black-led organizations and Black-owned businesses across Canada. Youth leaders leading in climate justice, racial equity and paving the way for reconciliation.

 

If this Towards Equity Community Summit Series had a playlist, what artists or songs would you want to see on it?

“Make It Home” by Tobe Nwigwe.

 

Who would you like to hear from in an upcoming interview? What other questions would you like us to ask interviewees? Let us know. Send your ideas to Chloe Sjuberg, Communications Coordinator, at chloe_s@sfu.ca.

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