“Canadians like to compare ourselves to America and say, ‘We’re better than they are, we’re a multicultural society,’” says Iman Bukhari, BA'12, a filmmaker and CEO of Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation. “Sometimes I feel like we use Canada’s official multiculturalism approach as a shield to ignore the fact that there’s racism in Canada. Pretty much every person of colour that I’ve ever spoken to has been discriminated against because of the colour of their skin. It’s a common thing and people have just learned to live with it, but that shouldn’t be the case.”
Bukhari’s film, YYC Colours, is being screened Monday, March 20, 6-8 p.m. in That Empty Space, located in the lower level of MacEwan Student Centre. The screening is part of Diversity Week activities on campus.
Film a collage of experienced racism in Calgary
Bukhari spent more than a year producing the film, interviewing over 100 Canadians about their experience with racism — from the shockingly blatant to more subtle micro-aggressions. She describes the film as something of a “collage” of Calgary experiences, saying that in the end she likes it, because it has a solutions-based perspective.
Her goal with the film was to start an honest conversation on a topic that is very sensitive for Canadians. “Subjects like race and privilege can be very touchy,” says Bukhari, “but as a society if we don’t engage in the conversation and understand the problem, racism will never end.”
Panelists provide first-hand experiences of racism
Following the screening, there will be an opportunity for one of those “honest conversations” in a panel discussion with individuals who will present a first-hand account of the impact of racism in several different affected communities including: Saima Jamal, peace activist (focus on Islamophobia); Khalil Alomar, VOICES (focus on racism and Queer communities); Evans Yellow Old Woman, Alex Centre (focus on racism and Indigenous communities); Rodney Diverlus, Black Lives Matters Calgary co-founder (focus on racism and black communities).
Social Work professor Jessica Shaw, PhD, will also be part of the panel discussion, providing a perspective on the larger issue of racism as well as her perspective as a white person who enjoys a certain privilege in Canadian society. Shaw says she originally invited Bukhari to come in to speak to one of her graduate classes about using film as creative activism to create social change, but says Bukhari asked her to be part of the film because she hadn’t been able to find any white people to talk openly about racism on camera. “I said, ‘absolutely.’ It surprised me at first, but after considering I realized that we often leave talking about difficult topics like racism to people of colour. As someone who benefits from white privilege every day, I think it’s my responsibility to be ready to engage with people on topics like racism — and we can extend that to many other ‘isms’ like sexism, heterosexism and so-on."
"Within this movement I really see my role as being someone who listens when people share their experiences, to believe people when they share their experience of racism and to amplify those voices when I’m called to do so. In anti-racist efforts, we must take the lead from people of colour. As a white person, I see my responsibility to amplify and add to that.
This special Diversity Week screening is open to students, faculty and staff as well as interested members of the community. While admission is free, registration is required. The event is sponsored by the Faith and Spirituality Centre in partnership with the Muslim Students’ Association, supported by Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation.