Fight For Systemic Change: Dr. Moussa Magassa
Dr. Moussa Magassa is an experienced Human Rights Educator and Advisor at the University of Victoria and a long time CPN member. In this article, Magassa shares his views on microaggression, racism and police reform in Victoria and encourages allies to speak up for injustices that they witness.
Magassa states that we need to confront the reality that racism is an ongoing issue ingrained in our social and political systems. Colour-Blindness refers to people who refuse to acknowledge the colour of one’s skin and the privilege associated with it, and it’s something that is constantly witnessed in Victoria. Colour-blind people are racists because when one chooses to not see someone’s colour, they are refusing to see the struggle that person faces due to their skin colour. Racism is evident in every sector. For example- a person of colour might be praised for their work, but will rarely be rewarded with a promotion. Their manager would instead justify favouritism towards their white colleague. This pattern of deep systemic racism will only stop when individuals take real action to eliminate it.
“Microaggression is a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)” (Merriam-Webster). Magassa compares microaggression to mosquito bites, it does not feel like a big deal if you are rarely bitten but some folks are bitten by mosquitoes every waking moment of their lives. He adds that irrespective of what form the microaggression takes- unintentional, verbal or physical action, it always portrays the power and privilege of the perpetrator. As a victim, one needs to take action, “you do not have to bite them back like mosquitoes but use repellents” that is, find your allies. Everyone needs to know their rights and learn to amplify them.
Standing up for the victim without any judgement is called an ally. Magassa encourages allies to understand the following when witnessing discrimination
- Recognize that something is wrong
- Listen and trust the story of the victim without blaming them
- Remember you are an ally and not the leader
- Use your privilege and take the matter to the higher authorities, with the consent of the person you are defending
A role of the ally is to pass their microphone to the person in need to make their voice heard, not to speak on behalf of someone. An ally must always communicate with the victim before taking any step. You are not an ally if you ignore the feelings of the person you are supporting and taking the lead on the matter.
In situations of microaggression, the perpetrator often gets excused by stating that they were innocent and did not know better. It is then seen as the victim’s responsibility to forgive the offender, and if they chose not to, they are termed as hypersensitive.
Magassa is currently the community co-chair of the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (GVPDAC), a position he has held for the past five years. The GVPDAC is comprised of diverse community leaders and local police representatives committed to fostering trust and building positive relationships between diverse communities and police.
On the topic of policing and how to best address racism when it occurs in law enforcement, Magassa noted that “People are not born racist. It is a learned behaviour. When ignorant people are given a badge and a gun, society validates their behaviour and, as a result, we get police who are blinded by their prejudice and oppress people who are different from them.” He suggests that police recruitment should include psychological testing to determine if the potential police recruit is competent to keep the community safe. They need to train the police recruit to have more soft skills that include, but are not limited to – interpersonal communication, anti-bias awareness, emotional and cultural intelligence.
Policies and recommendations to address police misconduct should be converted into meaningful policies and actions. Magassa says that the best way to hold the authorities accountable is to follow up and ensure public services, such as the police force are answerable to the public based on actions they have taken in response to the community’s feedback. Performative actions such as public apologies without any real action steps to back up their words are not effective. Authority figures should be removed from their positions if they cannot deliver what they promised or if they have abused their power and treated people unjustly. Police are mandated to serve and protect all the community.
As we move forward to address racism in our community, Magassa encourages leaders and members of our diverse communities to join together to combat injustices people face because of racial identity and social inequities. When communities work together, we have a better opportunity to address systemic change.
Watch the video on “How microaggressions are like mosquito bites* Same Difference” by Fusion Comedy
Article by Parijat Bhattacharjee