Vital Signs – The USA & Calgary

Kamela's Parents
Vice-President Elect Kamela Harris’s BIPOC parents

Hope, adulation, peace, comradery. These are all feelings that stem from the election of Vice-President Joe Biden to the White House. Perhaps more importantly, we have seen the election of the first Biracial, Indian and Black woman to the White House. This is a huge step in the equalization of rights not just in the United States, but across the world.

Fundamentally, this electoral win was based on BIPOC votes, with Indigenous, Black, and other racial groups leading to the win. For me at least, I look forward to racists losing the man they pointed to when they said, “Trump does it so it’s okay.”

Since 2016, we have seen political rhetoric become far more inflammatory, disrespectful, and uncaring. “I only care about my base” seemed like a viable platform to run on. As a believer in Big Tent Policies, I know we are all in this together, people of every creed, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Across the world there was celebration with Biden’s victory because it was based off this very idea. If we can continue to eliminate the hate & vitriol which runs through current political discourse, the world will become a better place.

So where do we stand now? Well until Biden takes office in 2021, we’re still pretty much in the same place. Once Biden takes office, there will be things he does which affect us here in Calgary. The first thing that jumps off the page is the likely discontinuation of the Keystone XL pipeline, something Alberta has heavily invested in. On the other side though, we might see a lower level of investment in the oil-producing regions of the US because of a clean energy agenda, which could help Alberta and Canada’s longer-term oil and gas investments.

On a more personal basis, Biden’s agenda includes listening and acting towards building a more equitable future through removing barriers to participation in the economy, expanding access to opportunity, and ensuring women of color are properly compensated for the work they do. He’s also seeking to expand Diversity across all Federal agencies. This is all great but how does this help us?

It is my belief that we are on the right track in Canada, and without Trump’s vicious words, we will likely be safer overall. We face our own set of circumstances here in town though. Calgary Foundation’s Vital Signs shows us in Calgary, 73% of us stress about money and 67% are pessimistic about the Alberta economy. These are troubling stats on their own but when you think about access to higher education, the ability to change your future, 25% of people struggle to afford post-secondary education. We are worried about the economy and somewhat worried about our ability to select our own destiny.

Let’s talk more about our ability to make a difference; Only half of Calgarians believe they can make a difference in our community and this number drops for Indigenous peoples. When it comes to racism, 82% of Calgarians believe racism towards BIPOC peoples exists. More troubling perhaps, is that while only 56% believe Calgarian’s are committed to anti-racism, equity and inclusion, only 35% of Black Calgarians believe this is in the case. Half of Calgary’s Black and Indigenous peoples believe Calgary is not an accepting place for people of diverse backgrounds. This idea is somewhat supported by only half of Calgarians believing their should be a greater emphasis on art that honors BIPOC histories and our cultures. Worst, 2/3s of Black people in Calgary have felt unsafe or threatened.

Essentially, despite any changes happening south of the border, we have significant issues here to deal with. This starts with us though. As evidenced by places like Philadelphia, Georgia and Arizona, BIPOC people’s votes mean something. We can change our future.

While there were many people protesting, most of them were younger than 25

That’s what we’re doing here at the Calgary Black Chambers. With our Advocacy efforts aimed at adding Black history to school curriculums and updating HR protocols, bursaries for those who can’t afford school, fellowship for support and importantly, mentorship to help groom the next generation into change makers. In Calgary, if you are under the age of 25, there’s a 17% chance you’ve participated in our human rights movement during the pandemic, vs. 3% for older people. Our kids are our future and equipping them with everything they need to prosper in a changing world, remains our most vital task.