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By Nesreen Ali

COVID-19 has asked us to connect with our humanity. With refrains like ‘masks protect you and me,’ the pandemic has reminded us that protecting others is as important as protecting ourselves.

The exhaustion and overwhelm with being 14 months into a pandemic that only seems to persist dread has deteriorated our mental, emotional and physical resources. Normally, we find it a little bit harder to empathize with others – that takes resources you might not now have.

While many folks living in Canada have access to accurate and clear information on COVID-19, appropriate healthcare, and vaccines, this is not the experience worldwide. With soaring cases and grave impacts of the pandemic in India – it highlights how our collective human experience is not one of equality or equity. Why does this persist as a norm?

Recently in, Calgary a 12-year-old black boy was handcuffed and detained at a playground. The reason? He was a suspect in an ongoing investigation. How do we start to learn from the trauma we cause?

This is part of weaving together the fabric of our humanity. One that is stronger, supportive, and kind. One where the country you were born, the colour of our skin nor who and how you live are reasons for suspicion or neglect. Where belonging becomes a cornerstone instead of othering as our default.

Humanizing is the process of seeing someone in all of their identities (ability, gender, race, sexuality) and celebrating those aspects. Dehumanizing is the process where we make someone’s identity a reason to treat them as less than human. This is a belief that is a part of all forms of prejudice including ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.

As many of us continue to work, go to school and interact with our loved ones in an online environment with little human-to-human interaction, it can be hard to see and honour the diversity of our communities’ identities.

These are very hard topics to unpack. They sit squarely in our grief, our stuck emotions about how the world is, how we are collectively grieving the loss of our human connections.

Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? There is one and it’s found in celebrating what makes us human – what makes us diverse. The leaders in this are equity-seeking folks who celebrate joy in their own skin, their wheelchairs, or their kitchen.

To reignite our connection to humanity we need to unwind thousands of years of political, economic, and social injustice. We have to believe in our bones that equity, equality, inclusion, and belonging are things we can create.

You start where? Here. In this moment. In this seed of inspiration. Take a pen and write this down. Set a ‘SMART’ goal for yourself.

  • Who will you be as a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the next year?
  • What do you want to learn about in the next year on your DEI journey?
  • How will you contribute to humanizing your world?
  • How will you know you achieved this?
  • How will you be held accountable for your goal?
  • What resources do you need to achieve this?
  • When will this be achieved?

Happy unraveling.