Elevating anti-racism awareness
Asper student Shyanti Saha Arpa discusses her role on UM's Anti-Racism Task Force
Observed annually, March 21 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In recognition of this day, from March 22 to 25, the City of Winnipeg is hosting a series of talks to explore ways to understand, identify and eliminate all forms of racism.
At UM, part of our commitment includes the establishment of the Anti-Racism Task Force. The Task Force, built on over a decade of work, aims to exert an active and conscious effort eliminating all aspects of overt and systemic racism.
The group includes diverse members from across the University who have been active in advancing racial justice and decolonization through their leadership, experience, subject matter expertise and community involvement.
The Asper School of Business connected with fourth-year Asper student Shyanti Saha Arpa to discuss her role as a UM Anti-Racism Task Force member to learn more about this important initiative and her perspectives on being an active voice fighting racism.
Asper: Could you share with us what diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you?
Saha Arpa: I truly believe in the significance of diversity, equity and inclusion for a civil, successful culture. Diversity, equity and inclusion are about encouraging a culture that is not beyond race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion and such. This is a culture where people engage, value and respect others and their different outlooks. It is a place that provides a sense of belonging and provides equal unbiased opportunities for everyone.
Asper: Can you tell us more about how you were selected to be part of the UM Anti-Racism Task Force?
Saha Arpa: I had participated in the Intercultural Leadership Program last fall. Roxanne Tackie, who was the coordinator of the program, suggested my name to Valerie Williams who is the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Facilitator in Human Resources. I received an email invitation to join the task force and that’s how I became a part of this important cause.
Asper: What is the UM Anti-Racism Task Force and what are its goals?
Saha Arpa: The UM Anti-Racism Task Force is a result of the university’s commitment to addressing racism. Racism has subtly existed in the university’s history of policies, culture and practices. The Anti-Racism Task Force is committed to supporting UM’s pledge to eradicate all kinds of racism across all areas and stages of institutions. Our main target is to develop an anti-racist strategy for UM and help create a place where everyone is given equal opportunities to flourish and succeed. The task force comprises many faculty members, staff and students who bring their experiences and are working towards the development of an anti-racism strategy through an iterative and consultation process.
Asper: What is your role specifically as a student on the UM’s Task Force?
Saha Arpa: As a student, I am expected to share ideas, voice my opinions, contribute to the strategy development and provide the task force my perspective on how to advance racial justice through my lived experiences as an international student at the university and as a minority in Canada. My role is also to contribute equally to creating a safe and thriving environment for all the students.
Asper: What are the resources available on campus for those looking to become allies?
Saha Arpa: UM Today is a great place to know the university’s latest updates and events regarding anti-racism. If you are interested in the events, you will always find an email attached to the news. There are workshops held by Valerie to have conversations about dismantling racism. Check out the university’s website. You can also join alliances such as the UM Black Alliance.
Asper: With this week being anti-racism week in Winnipeg, do you have any recommendations for how people can show their support?
Saha Arpa: Social media is a great tool to create mass awareness. Changes begin at home, within your own self. My recommendation would be to learn about races, racism and the practice of anti-racism. If you have adequate knowledge, you can spread it through your social media. Make a post, have a conversation, attend workshops and encourage others to do the same. But most importantly be the change; know racism, rectify it if it’s done by you and counter it if it’s happening to someone else around you.