(L-R) Nathan Riley, Bettina Cenerelli and Belinda Karsen participated in SFU HR's anti-racism workshop, "But where are you really from? Exploring anti-racism, allyship and belonging in the workplace"

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One step on a lifelong journey: reflections from anti-racism training at SFU

July 15, 2021
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By Manjot Bains

Over the past year, conversations about racism—specifically anti-Indigenous, anti-Black and anti-Asian racism—have been top of mind for many, including SFU faculty and staff who might be wondering how they can practice anti-racism at work.

A recent workshop organized by SFU’s Human Resources team and facilitated by The Commons Consulting, entitled “But where are you really from? Exploring anti-racism, allyship and belonging in the workplace”, saw participants learn about strategies for practicing anti-racism through a series of storytelling exercises, readings and discussions. 

SFU News spoke with three workshop participants about their takeaways from the workshop, why they signed up in the first place, and how they’ll be using their learnings to create a more inclusive workplace.

Belinda Karsen

One step on a lifelong journey

According to Belinda Karsen, an educational specialist with SFU’s Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office, the workshop encouraged her to reflect on her own positionality and identity.

“I am a white settler with Canadian citizenship. Those identities and my other identities really afford me a lot of privilege,” she shares. “Over the past few years, I’ve been interrogating these privileges and examining them with the aim of doing real allyship, not just performative allyship.” 

It was also important for Karsen to approach this workshop as just one step on a lifelong journey of learning and unlearning. 

“It was only last year that I learned about being not only ‘not racist,’ but anti-racist. The workshop helped me to learn more about what it means to be anti-racist and how to put it into practice. Ultimately, I want to be a better ally.”

Bettina Cenerelli

Supporting colleagues and calling out racism

Bettina Cenerelli’s most important takeaway from the workshop was the need for community members to speak up and support colleagues who face racism in the workplace.

“It’s not enough to say that we understand and hear our racialized colleagues,” says Cenerelli, who works as the director of strategic academic planning and student affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “We need to work on ourselves and our own behaviour. It’s a question of power imbalance: equity must replace equality.”

She also noted the importance of separating out different areas of action, such as decolonization, anti-racism, and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). 

“It’s important to not throw our decolonization efforts, anti-racist efforts and EDI efforts in the same container. They all deserve our attention. We really need to work on every one of those challenges individually.” 

Nathan Riley

Don’t let the fear of making mistakes deter you from doing better

For Nathan Riley, acting associate director of residence life with SFU Residence and Housing, learning about anti-racism and allyship helps him to create a better, more inclusive atmosphere for students on campus. 

“It’s important to us that we’re establishing a community where students feel comfortable and included,” he says. 

Riley especially appreciated the way that these anti-racism workshops encouraged participants to lean into their discomfort around subjects they might not be familiar with.

“It’s okay to be uncomfortable—that means you’re growing,” he reflects. “I know that I don’t do perfect work, but sessions like this allow me to reflect and get better each and every day, even in small ways, so I can better support the students and staff I work with.”

Human Resources will offer anti-racism training again in the fall—watch for registration information in the What’s On newsletter. In addition, based on the high demand for learning opportunities in this area, an online course for faculty and staff on anti-racism is being developed in collaboration between Human Resources, the SFU Library and the EDI Administrative Group. 

Want to further your own learning around anti-racism and creating a culture of equity and inclusion at SFU? Check out the SFU Library’s resource guide to racial justice. You can learn more about equity, diversity and inclusion at SFU—including upcoming events and ways to participate—on the EDI website.