“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Respectful environments are created by incorporating principles of equity, diversity and inclusion into our actions and decisions. These principles are necessary but sadly, not sufficient to create our aspirational environments.
Respectful environments are also characterized by what is absent. Bullying, intimidation, abuse of power, unequal and inequitable treatment, racism and all forms of discriminatory attitudes and behaviours have no place in respectful environments and will destroy even the most prodigious efforts to support respect and inclusion. We cannot build respectful environments as long as we ignore, or leave unchallenged, racism, sexism, ageism, ableism and the attendant discriminatory conduct. These are barriers to inclusion and to the creation of safe and respectful communities.
We do not build inclusion simply by inviting people in. All members of our community must be welcomed, celebrated in their diversity, valued for their contributions, and supported in the exercise of their human rights. We have many barriers, systemic and interpersonal, that prevent true inclusion and full participation of all staff, faculty, and students. We must examine policies, procedures, and structures that create or perpetuate oppression and disadvantage. We must equip all members of our community to be anti-racist, to recognize unconscious biases, to be open-minded, and to approach others with appreciation, curiosity, and respect for their different lived experiences and perspectives. We must embrace opportunities to grow and learn from our interactions with all members of our community.
We cannot ignore or minimize the manifestations of racism and other forms of discrimination that target members of our community. We must act to eradicate abuses of power, “othering”, racism, and other forms of discrimination if our work and learning environments are to flourish and members of our community are to have a sense of belonging and the opportunity to fully participate in Faculty of Medicine activities.
We must practice cultural humility and empathic engagement. We must learn how to be allies and anti-racists. Perhaps most important we must support one another as we acquire these skills. We need to accept that we will make mistakes and be kind, tolerant, and forgiving. We must “call in” rather than “cancel” or “call out” when someone does not meet expectations. We must teach with respect rather than shame. But, we must also live our values and set standards and expectations as we encourage and support each other to be accountable for our attitudes and conduct.
We can no longer be silent when faced with injustice and oppression. We cannot watch from the sidelines as members of our community are denied the exercise of their human rights. We must learn how to be allies and how to speak out on behalf of those for whom speaking up is risky and at times unsafe.
Roslyn Goldner (she, her, hers)
Executive Director, Office of Respectful Environments, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Faculty of Medicine
University of British Columbia
I respectfully acknowledge that I live, work and play on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil- Waututh) Nations.