Online panel discussion gathers community leaders to discuss racism, anxiety triggers

·3 min read

A local online media platform, Hue, held a virtual panel discussion on Thursday titled “When Mental Health Matters: Communicating through Cultures and Generations.”

The multimedia storytelling platform gathered community leaders from Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, and Indigenous backgrounds to speak about systemic racism and the triggers of anxiety, fear and uncertainty.

According to the multicultural and multigenerational panel, racist actions have impacted the mental health of many in the community.

“We are working, we have jobs, we are homeowners, business owners, and we are professionals, red collar and blue-collar workers. However, people can’t seem to make that connection because of what they see on television, the news or on the streets,” said Clayton Sandy, Knowledge Keeper from Circles of Reconciliation on Friday.

“They don’t understand that is just a small minority of people that are lost. The majority are not in that situation because they wanted to be but because of their lives journey. I wish people would just take their glasses off and look at us as if we are not that different.”

Often when dealing with racism people, especially minorities, choose to step back as many feel uncomfortable speaking out.

Many also feel unsure that when faced in a racist situation, whether it was specifically targeted at them as an individual or whether they might misread it as something racist when it was not intended to be.

Dr. Muni Mysore from the Asian Heritage Society vocalized during the discussion that some cultures are not open to sharing because of the fear of stigma, shame and embarrassment.

“If you look at the evolution of biology, there was a time when we had to survive in small groups. Those groups protected each other. If you looked like the other person they were your kin,” said Mysore.

“As we evolved, different parts of the brain perform different functions. To live in that society, you need a primitive brain, to live in our society, which is now multicultural and complex, we need a different brain.”

Mysore added that we need to develop our brain to begin appreciating diversity because to live in the 21st century, we need that brain.

The panel discussed that while organizations are trying to address the issue of racism, without physical interaction and spaces where people can gather and share stories, the isolation can make an individual feel as if the racism they faced is more pronounced.

“There is a lack of education on all fronts. I do not believe our education system does enough to teach young humans what it means to not only be friends with someone different than you but to take an extra part to understand their differences,” said Rana Bokhari, former leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party.

Diane Roussin, Project Director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project said that minorities need to start having brave conversations about racism even if it may be difficult and even, unsafe.

Thursday’s panel was an important and unique opportunity to have dialogue and constructive conversation around themes that have been affecting a lot of ethnic groups for a long time.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun