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6 Degrees Live: Fabrice Vil on what racism is

On Tuesday, June 16, Fabrice Vil joined us on 6 Degrees Live, our weekly Instagram Live series, to talk about how we define racism, and how we combat it.

Vil is the founder of Pour 3 Points, a charity based in Quebec that trains sports coaches to become life coaches for underprivileged youth.

Below are four takeaways from Vil’s 6 Degrees Live session.

Language is instrumental to understanding racism
If we’re to talk about racism, we have to talk about language. Language is an extraordinary technology, but it is a limited one. Language allows us to agree on how we want to live together in society. It is designed to get us to a shared understanding, but with racism, we lack this shared understanding. At this moment, we are being called upon to reflect on racism, but racism is different for everybody.

 

The fact that racism is labelled as a crime and as an identity prevents us from really discussing racism and agreeing to paths forward
We talk about racism as a crime, using words like accused.  “It is not random that it took a man, with three of his colleagues, to kneel on another man’s neck for eight minutes, and 46 seconds to get to a point where everybody would say, ‘OK, now there’s no debate, this is racism.’ Because it got us to a point where we could agree this is a crime,” Vil says about how George Floyd’s death has galvanized individuals and organizations around the world to begin discussing, and tackling, anti-Black racism. Most people were able to agree that Floyd’s killing was a racist act because it seemed so obviously criminal, while it is much harder to get people to agree that something is racist if it doesn’t appear to be a crime, Vil says. 

We also put too much focus on racism as an identity. 

“In our language, we point out that someone is racist or someone is not racist, which is a binary thing…We need to see racism as something that is multifaceted and complex,” Vil says. 

The public school system in Canada has a role to play in combating racism
Schools are not teaching about racism in a complex and nuanced way, Vil says. It is important to teach kids about racism in a new way so that we can be clear on what it is. The more clear everyone is on what racism is, the better we can tackle the solutions to this issue.

If there is a building on fire, we are going to agree that there is a fire and we will agree on the solution, Vil points out. “We are not going to say there is a fire and some people are going to say ‘oh we can’t say there is a fire as it is going to offend some people.’ It is important to get to a point that we agree on what it is so that we can find a common solution.”

Fighting racism is a collective responsibility
“We need to reflect deeply on what racism means to us individually,” Vil says. “What are our privileges? How are we personally oppressed? How do we feel when we even think of the notion of racism? What are we afraid of? What are our hopes? What is important in the fight against racism? What are we willing to commit to? By doing that internal, personal work, we all take responsibility.”