A local organization says more needs to be done to understand the problem of racism in Red Deer.
On Tuesday, the preliminary results of an online survey conducted by the Red Deer Local Immigration Partnership showed that racism is prevalent in the community.
Of the 665 respondents to the survey conducted between Feb. 15 and March 2, 70 per cent identified as White. Five per cent were Indigenous; six percent were Black or bi-racial; three per cent were Southeast Asian and 2.3 per cent Latinx.
That’s problematic, says Dieulita Datas, co-founder of UBUNTU, a Central Alberta-based organization that is working to connect and mobilize local communities on issues of race and social justice.
“There were more non-people of colour who responded to the survey, than people who are affected every day in their everyday lives in regards to racism,” she said.
“That, even though it was surprising, it was not something that we didn’t see coming, because we had stated before that when it comes to dealing with issues like racism, a survey doesn’t capture that adequately.”
The survey will help shape an anti-racism campaign in the community, that is expected to be released this fall.
“This survey has provided us with insight on racism in Red Deer and has helped us not only in shaping the direction of a community-wide anti-racism campaign, but also in understanding the need for supports for those who experience racism,” said Ezgi Sarioglu, program manager, RDLIP.
The organization aims to create a community that openly receives newcomes, embraces cultural diversity and strives to understand the needs of newcomers to provide access to a full range of services and participation in all aspects of society.
Datas said while the data is helpful and could lead to a more meaningful conversation, more work needs to be done on the ground reaching out to marginalized communities, to understand how their experience is being impacted by racism.
“In order to move forward, you have to know what happened and it needs to be community-led,” she said.
“It should not be reflective of the community that is not affected, but it needs to be centred around the voices and the people who are affected daily by this.
“It would mean speaking directly in Red Deer to the South Sudanese community; speaking directly to the Somali community; speaking directly to the Caribbean community and those who identify as Latino and Latinas. It means centering those voices. It means meeting them where they’re at.”
In the survey, around 50 per cent of respondents said racism is worse in Red Deer than most other places, while 15 per cent said that racism is better in Red Deer than other places.
About 46 per cent of respondents said racism in Red Deer has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic and 4.6 per cent said it has gotten better.
Nearly 30 per cent of people who responded said they have experienced racism while 76.2 per cent of those people said they aren’t likely to seek help and that’s another major issue, says Datas.
UBUNTU looks forward to the full report and the anti-racism campaign that will be launched later this year by the RDLIP.
In the meantime, Datas thinks even something as simple as having the survey in multiple languages could be a better step forward.
“People are willing to share, as long as they feel comfortable and confident and as long as they feel like it’s their voice and their experiences are being centred.”