The protests for racial justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have brought issues of race to front of mind for some people in a way that illustrates exactly why there are protests. For some people, though, issues of race (and class, gender, and the intersections thereof) are always front of mind. That is the point. People of colour in our society experience things—policing, government interactions, higher education—differently than white people. This is what is meant by “systemic racism:” our systems are built in such a way that make it easier for people who are white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, wealthy, and otherwise privileged to benefit from them, and harder for people of colour, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+ people, indigenous people, and people with disabilities.
It’s important for all of us to look at our own organizations, the systems we are part of, and remember that all people should have equal access to the benefits our societies and systems provide; and, ask what we can do to change things to make them better.
The Rebus Foundation is based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, North America, and is part of a set of institutions and systems—cities, higher education, nonprofits, the Open Education movement, volunteer organizations—all of which are built in ways that make it easier to access benefits of those institutions if you are white (and male).
It’s important for us first to acknowledge the systemic racism that exists in Canada, in Quebec, and in Montreal, where our headquarters are located; in higher education; in the non-profit sector; and indeed in the Open Education movement. For instance, the leadership of many organizations that participate in the Open Education movement including the Rebus Foundation are largely white, which inevitably leads to decisions and policies that center the white North American perspective, while excluding the perspectives and needs of people of colour. We feel it is important to first acknowledge this systemic racism because we cannot work to make these systems better if we do not shine a light on their problems. We believe it’s important to acknowledge this publicly because social pressure of a public acknowledgment is necessary to encourage those that are silent (as we have been until today) to do the same. In particular, we encourage leaders and institutions in the OER community to speak up, speak out, and lead by example. And, frankly, writing this has helped us understand how we want the Rebus Foundation to evolve.
Acknowledgement is not enough. Rebus Foundation commits to building better systems in higher education and the open education community, as well as in our personal lives and any other systems we encounter. We will work to amplify the QTBIPOC voices of our community, while combating voices who uphold white supremacy. We will work to ensure that open education is a movement for all people. Open Education asks for a lot of free labour and knowledge, and therefore upholds voices of those privileged enough to be able to volunteer. This privilege is a failure of the open movement and we must work to ensure the future of the movement is more diverse than it currently is.
To begin, we have compiled a living list of resources, best practices, and actions to help dismantle systemic racism in publishing and pedagogy. This list is open to anyone who wishes to contribute. We have also distributed a list of actions in our newsletter that anyone can take to dismantle systemic racism. This newsletter has been archived and is available for viewing and sharing.
The above is phase 1 of our anti-racism strategy. Phase 2 will include the following actions and commitments:
- Provide more opportunities for people of colour on the Rebus team to travel to conferences (once in-person conferences are considered safe again) to access the leadership opportunities at those conferences. Online conference presentation and attendance decisions will also prioritize people of colour.
- All future hiring decisions will prioritize people of colour.
- An anti-racism policy (which may include sections on harassment and reporting policies), equal pay scale policy, and a diverse hiring policy will be drafted, committed to, and reviewed by the Rebus team. These policies will be licensed CC BY and available in multiple downloadable formats so that other companies can reuse, redistribute, and remix them.
- Identify roles that need filling on our board of directors and prioritize people of colour for those positions in our organization’s leadership. An item regarding improving the diversity of Rebus Foundation’s leadership will be added to the next board meeting agenda.
- Rebus Ink’s advisory group will go through a similar process as the board of directors.
- Rebus Ink will expand its beta testing group to ensure diverse representation.
- All members of the staff will take an implicit bias test. This is essential to combating racism that may be internalized by each and every one of us. Part of growing up in a society that suffers from systemic racism is that we do not always see the biases and privileges we may have. And we cannot grow without seeing the parts of ourselves that we need to change. An implicit bias test will help us in that growth.
Phase 3 is still yet to be defined. Our team is currently in discussions about how we deploy future fundraising and our Textbook Success Program to fight racism in higher education and publishing. As soon as we have more concrete plans regarding these two areas, we will share them publicly.