Thoughts from a first-time viewer
This post is a bit long, but please read and make immediate changes to durham.ca to more easily access information about these extremely important conversations.
This was my first time witnessing a Town Hall meeting such as this. Listening and watching it (after finding the new link when the original stream stopped), was both inspiring and frustrating for me. I have lived in Durham my entire life. I grew up here as a visible minority and I've raised my three kids here for almost 15 years, and I wish for them to grow up in a community where they have every opportunity to succeed.
I was inspired when I heard this conversation was happening. As I watched the meeting commence, I couldn't help but initially be disappointed by what I saw overall. This is a time where more people than ever (especially young people) are starting to take a deeper interest into how our communities are governed. I couldn't help but think what other first time viewers were thinking when they saw a big dark room with 3 white people on one side and 3 black people on the other side. Perception is a big deal, and regardless of the actual arrangement, this already looked like a debate, with two sides. Not an open and earnest conversation with both sides ready to listen and be vulnerable (which is what you need in order to talk about something as big as racism).
If this meeting was to collaborate and raise awareness and find potential solutions to the many deep rooted problems we face, it was definitely missing a lot of dialogue between the actual people in the room.
I heard great contributions from Celina speaking on education being such a deep rooted problem, but made solving it seem impossible. A start could be as simple as making world culture a required subject in intermediate grades in public schools and concurrently with the religion curriculum in Catholic Schools. Teaching kids to be curious about other cultures and learning how to understand and respect them. You don't have to tear down the whole system to start making positive change. In fact, education would be most effective to kids if it was refreshed often enough to change with the times.
I was inspired hearing another first time attendee call in a question about education reform, and asking if there was a place to find a transcript, recording or even a (unbiased) written recap. I was disappointed when nobody had an actual answer. Only to say this was being "recorded" and that "someone" would eventually write a recap. Is this normal? Having a recording, transcript and unbiased recap that is easily accessible to the public online seems like a really obvious and mandatory thing if the intent is to actually inform and involve the community. Yet days later I see nothing on the main page of Durham.ca that says anything about this past event and its content.
It was a relief to see questions about the police force met with sympathy and in some cases remorse. It's great to see those in leadership positions share the concerns of the people in this regard. There was a refreshing exchange when the two sides shared ideas around Youth Police Groups. What was missing were resources for those watching to get more information on the projects and initiatives that were identified as solutions to things like Police Brutality, Police Training and Dealing with mental health. Access to the public brings transparency. Transparency brings accountability. And I don't trust anyone who isn't willing to hold themselves accountable.
Many of the answers to community concerns about racism were simply references to either:
1. Funding. But to what end? What specific goals are set out with this funding? What results are we using to measure success and why? How will we keep the community updated to our progress and impact?
2. Committees. But to what end? What are the specific goals of these committees? Who elects the committees? Who are their members, and how can the community contact them and get more involved?
3. It's someone else's job. "It's the SIU who handles that", "the Federal/Provincial Government does that", etc. If it's being brought up as an issue, then SOMEONE isn't doing a good enough job and the issue needs to be brought to the attention of people who CAN do something. Also, standing up against injustice including both blatant and systemic is everybody's job.
Now, I understand that the meeting was only scheduled to be 90 minutes, and that there were technical issues on the live stream so the representatives couldn't go into deep details. But this is no excuse for the significant lack of access of information to the people of this community.
So although I may be new to politics, I know when I hear an answer that is not an answer. I know when I hear someone pass the buck instead of leading out the responsibility. When Celina mentioned at the start that this is our opportunity to "keep the receipts", I feel like I ended up with a really confusing bill.
I believe that everyone is here to do good, and I sincerely hope that this conversation doesn't end here. Things need to change, and change is uncomfortable for most. In Oshawa, a black woman's tires were slashed and the car vandalized with "Black Lives Don't Matter FU". We are going to need all the leadership we can get to make Durham a place where this doesn't happen and it starts with leadership. Identifying the injustices in our communities of any kind, and correcting it, will always be the right thing to do.
Thanks very much for reading, and let's all continue to strive to do better.