Category Archives: KPU Speaks

Difficult Conversations: The First Step to Tough Changes in Systemic Racism

By Hayley Montes

In order to properly combat racism, we must first understand and recognize the racist tendencies and beliefs that are often hidden within plain sight and embedded within the foundations of our society. Racism is more than just having prejudices against skin colour and hair type; in fact, racism runs so much deeper than what meets the eyes, and it is systemic. The system, including that in Canada and the United States, was created to benefit certain groups. The fight against racism is not only about checking stereotypes and ending bigoted comments, but also about dismantling a system that was created to oppress and marginalize people.

The system that society functions on capitalizes on the notion that someone must always receive the shorter end of the stick and that someone must always end up at the bottom of the food chain. The term “dog eat dog” world had to have come from somewhere, right? One such example of this issue presented is in the article The Italian American Table, where Simone Cinotto notes how upon their arrival to the New York area, Italian immigrants were viewed as lower class and were often criticized for their cultural practices, mainly to do with their diets. However, when Puerto Rican immigrants began to relocate in the New York area, those same Italian immigrants began to “criticize behaviours for which they had been criticized only a few years earlier” (pg. 84, Cinotto). This example displays the flaw in categorizing human beings into distinct boundaries, as these perceptions are arbitrary and subject to change. Placing humans into different categories only creates a divide among them. No one wants to be left behind or be placed at the bottom; in turn, this results in a snowballing effect of racism and discrimination.

All things considered, racism is a difficult topic to navigate. It is one of those topics that people avoid because it can be uncomfortable, but the truth is, we need to have these uncomfortable conversations in order to move forward and be better than those in the past. While racism and discrimination may not be as blatantly in our face in Canada in comparison to some other places in the world, it is still an issue present right here, right now. In fact, the reason why I refuse to turn a blind eye to this difficult topic, or shy away from having difficult conversations, is because I have experienced and witnessed racism and discrimination firsthand, and so have many of my loved ones. It is not enough to be silent and wait for things to get better. In order to combat racism, we must understand and recognize that racism is not an issue of the past. It is present, and unless we continue to have difficult conversations, it will continue to be an issue in the future. 

Works Cited 

Cinotto, S. (2013). “The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City.” Retrieved from:

Hayley Montes is a fourth year KPU student majoring in anthropology. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, baking all sorts of pastries, and reading tarot cards for fun. She is also an avid Canucks fan and hopes to one day become an elementary school teacher. She believes that educating young minds will help aid in creating a better world for all. 

Shifting from Equity-Seeking to Equity-Deserving

Shifting from Equity-Seeking to Equity-Deserving 

By Teresa Smith

Pause for a moment and consider the power of words.

Research participants view a surgical procedure more favourably when it is described as having a “70% success rate” rather than a “30% failure rate”[i].

If you ask a witness how fast two cars were going when they “smashed” rather than “contacted” each other, they will report a much higher speed.[ii]

The words we choose shape the way we think, and the way we think shapes the way we behave.[iii] If we want to be an anti-racist, we need to recognize that our words shape the world we live in. 

Anti-racism work is based on the fundamental belief that all humans deserve equitable treatment. That no matter who you are, you have a right to be treated fairly, without bias. And yet, when we talk about Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, why do we refer to them as “equity-seeking” rather than “equity-deserving”? 

Think about it. To seek something is to ask for something from someone else. And if equity is a right, which it is, no one should be put into the position of having to ask for it. The act of asking for something puts the asker in a vulnerable position. The asker assumes all the risk: the risk of appearing needy and the risk of having to give control over to someone else. And what of the person or group being asked? The “askee” becomes the one with all the power – the power to give, the power to deny, and the power to look the other way.

That is why I support the challenge of Professor Wisdom Tettey, Vice President and Principal of University of Toronto Scarborough. In his 2019 installation address, he calls on us all to change our words and to start thinking of relating to, and referring to, marginalized people(s) as “equity-deserving” rather than “equity-seeking”. 

Reflecting on language is an important aspect of anti-racist work. What words have hurt you or helped you in your life? How do the words you use create or uphold certain relationships, values, or power structures? By making a shift in your words, you can help change how people think and act towards BIPOC members of our community. Equity is something we all deserve.

Want to learn more about how to shift your language? Visit the City of Edmonton’s Inclusive Language Guide and the BCCDC COVID-19 Language Guide.  

Teresa Smith is the Senior Manager, Organizational Development and Employee Experience in KPU’s Human Resources Department. Her work involves building and supporting equitable and inclusive practices that contribute to a healthy and thriving community.




This is the first in several opinion pieces to come. We welcome your thoughts, advice, and unique insights.  

All comments will be moderated. For your comment to be approved and made public, it should respect the dignity of others and meet the standards of KPU policies and collective agreements. Personal attacks or comments which promote hatred or contempt for any social, national, or ethnic group will not be tolerated.