As a Black queer journalist, I’ve dealt with racism and homophobia in newsrooms across Canada. I’ve experienced everything from endless micro-aggressions to blatant discrimination.
That’s why I was excited to become the first Black person to be acting editor-in-chief of the progressive news site rabble.ca, 20 months ago. I thought this would be an opportunity to centre, elevate and celebrate Black, Indigenous and people of colour voices and stories.
Unfortunately, it was not.
After completing a review of nearly 20 years of reporting at rabble from 2001 to 2020, I found that, of columnists published five times or more, approximately 91.8 per cent of columns were written by white authors. The vast majority of stories published on issues that are often life or death for Black, Indigenous and people of colour, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, were written by white journalists.
Even though I was put in a position to oversee all content published on the website and invited to participate on hiring committees, I was never given the authority or the resources to implement any meaningful progress.
When I pushed for changes that would have allowed us to engage more Black, Indigenous and people of colour writers, I was met with delays and resistance from senior management. When I and some of my colleagues challenged our board and demanded accountability, we received a public apology that was more insincere PR and crisis management than an actual commitment to systemic and organizational change.
The systemic racism and labour practices within the organization made it clear that there was no future there for me, or for people like me.
That was the last time I will fight for change within an organization unwilling to change.
This year, I’m ready to launch a platform that truly empowers Black, Indigenous and people of colour voices.
A rising tide of BIPOC writers and journalists in Canada
I’ve heard from so many other Black journalists, Indigenous journalists and journalists of colour with similar stories who continue to struggle against racism and tokenization, or who have been pushed out or who have quit the industry altogether.
People of colour represent at least 20 per cent of Canada’s population, yet the lack of racial equity in newsrooms across Canada is glaring. There hasn’t been research on Canadian newsroom demographics since the mid-2000s, which is a testament to how much we hold our industry accountable when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Back then, the typical Canadian journalist was found to be white 97 per cent of the time, and visible minorities and Indigenous persons were significantly under-represented compared to reading audiences (3.4 per cent versus 16.7 per cent). Emerging research shows that these circumstances have not improved much since then.
The Resolve: A powerful new platform for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour voices
The Resolve will be launching later this year. We are currently fundraising to be able to build a strong and vibrant freelance roster of Black, Indigenous and people of colour writers and editors across the country.
In the meantime, we are engaging our early audience via a weekly email newsletter that is sent out every Monday. As The Resolve’s audience grows, we will be asking our community what stories and issues need to be explored on our platform.
The Resolve is not a vanity project for myself and other disappointed Black, Indigenous and writers of colour to vent frustrations with Canadian journalism. This will be a space for you to stay on top of important stories that matter to Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities beyond the fickle attention of the 24-hour news cycle.
We’ll dive deeper, explain complex issues and look to solutions. We’ll reflect the real-life experiences of Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities — the highs and the lows, the challenges and the successes, the sorrows and the joys.
The Resolve and I are just getting started, and I appreciate you being here. You can help us out by subscribing to our newsletter, following us on social media and sharing our website with your networks.
Together, we can challenge the traditional narrative and reimagine Canadian journalism.