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White washing - sending the wrong message about diversity, equity & Inclusion


As a copywriter (or content writer, depending on what I am doing), I think a lot about messaging.


Not just what we actually say or want to say, but the messages we send when we make certain decisions.


Take Pat Dunn.


This is an elected Nova Scotian politician who is, and I cannot believe I have to make my fingers type this, the new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.


Yes this is an actual thing that actually happened.


You can probably guess how.


But let's just be overt: a white politician, Tim Houston, who is not just the leader of Pat's party but also the leader of Nova Scotia as its premier, thought it was a good decision to make Pat his new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.


This is what we call peak whiteness.


Houston's explanation is just as mind bogglingly wrong as the decision.


There were no Black candidates in his party who were elected to office, so he decided to appoint someone who was elected from his party because, you know, democracy.


This decision, it should be said, dovetailed with the decision to fire the first Black member of Nova Scotia's health authority, Dr. OmiSoore Dryden.


You have to wonder who was in the room when these decision were being made, because neither of them look good.


They look very backward, ill considered, myopic--take your pick of descriptors.


People are upset and rightly so.


In an era when diversity, equity, and inclusion are increasingly important in addressing the socioeconomic issues and health disparities facing Black communities, Nova Scotia's politicians have decided to turn back time.


The message that this decision conveys is that representation doesn't matter.


That, as usual, the best way to address issues of importance to communities that have been subjected to various ill-conceived at best and racist at worst policies over the years is to deny them a place at the table.


There are no words for this kind of thinking, and I should know.


I am a copywriter.


Okay, there are words, but none of them are ones I choose to use in a professional setting.


I can say this is dismaying and unconscionable.


To Nova Scotia's Black communities, it's a clear message from white leaders that white elected officials know what is best for everyone and to trust them, despite many historic examples to the contrary.


To Canada and the world, the message is that Nova Scotia is not a forward-looking place, and certainly not one that is serious about ensuring Nova Scotians are adequately represented by people who look like and have the same lived experience as them.


This is one narrative that, as a copywriter, I wish I could rewrite.


And a reminder to you to think about the message you are sending not just through your words but also your actions.


Because the world is watching.





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