Talk of resilience should not mask the need for structural changes to address systemic racism, according to The Conversation Canada editor and host and producer of the podcast Don’t Call Me Resilient, Vinita Srivastava.
She made the call in her presentation for the Walrus Talks @ Home on the theme of resilience on May 26, 2021. The online talks featured three other speakers; Paralympic gold medalist Jeff Adams, performing artist, writer, director, and producer Justin Many Fingers, and professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Alberta, Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika.
In her talk, Srivastava explained how our current times demand that we celebrate and mourn on the same day, forcing a kind of resilience that needs to be honoured and celebrated.
Drawing on Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg’s famous phrase ‘Lean in’ (also the name of her book), she touched upon the shift in language around resilience.
She explained it was now being used to whole communities and cities as opposed to a few years earlier when it was goal-oriented. This has switched the focus from fixing problems such as inequality, healthcare and poverty to celebrating communities that survive despite these.
Another word Srivastava used in connection with resilience is grit. She explained that racialized populations need to show more grit in order to cope with the ongoing psychological and emotional stress of daily racism.
While this resilience should be celebrated, she argued that it should not be used to cover up structural realities.
“Maybe the grit that we need right now is the courage to withdraw from systems that no longer serve us,” she said in her talk.
“And maybe we should call in our leaders to have the resilience and fortitude to work with and listen to communities who can lead the way for massive structural changes.”
The Walrus Talks @ Home online series, organized by The Walrus magazine, features four thought leaders and industry experts offering four different perspectives on a single topic, followed by a Q&A session.