Michael Benarroch on Black History Month

Anti-Black racism cannot be a fad. That’s the theme of a forum UM Black Alliance (UMBA) is hosting on Feb. 18 as part of Black History Month events, and it’s a thesis that rings profoundly true.

I encourage everyone to participate in events being hosted throughout Black History Month, and to learn about the Black experience in Canada and beyond. When I was an undergraduate student, I was open and eager to learn more about the experiences of others, but I was not always sure how. I view the opportunities available to students today with some envy, and I hope each member of our university community will see value in pursuing them. Education is a crucial step to unravelling the complex challenges we must face together.

Supporting this work at the University of Manitoba is one of my highest priorities, and the president’s task force on equity, diversity and inclusion is completing an action plan — informed by our community — that will transform our campus in the coming years.

One significant change took place in August 2020 when the U of M’s Rady faculty of health sciences passed the first anti-racism policy of any faculty or post-secondary institution in Canada: Disruption of all Forms of Racism. Developed with the office of equity, diversity and inclusion anti-racism working group, this policy, in brief, defines the many forms racism can manifest and sets out the responsibilities and expectations for eliminating expressions of racism on our campus.

And recently, the U of M released an important document: Upholding the Principles of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion During COVID-19. This handbook will help to cultivate awareness about how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected diverse communities, and it will act as a resource guide to help connect people to university and community supports.

I’m proud of our community at the U of M for continuing to dismantle racist structures, creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive campus. Let’s keep this momentum going; there is still more we need to do together. Creating an inclusive, diverse and equitable campus is not a fad.