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"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly"

 - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

 

The hockey community - including front office personnel, professional players, youth players, and fans - has an incredible platform to advance racial justice, diversity, and inclusion in our society. To use this platform effectively and responsibly, we must all consider our individual capacity to change alongside organizational and structural changes that will foster true progress.

While these changes can seem intimidating and overwhelming, remember that you do not need to be an expert to begin making change. You simply need to commit to the journey. Every individual's journey to furthering equality is highly personal and unique, but there are three fundamental stages that should resonate for all change-makers:

     1. Awareness: Continuously educating yourself about the experiences of the Black community, as well as the experiences of other marginalized groups.

     2. Allyship: Supporting and uplifting diverse individuals and standing up when non-inclusive incidents occur.

     3. Advocacy: Taking action to help achieve a racially just society by using your platform, privilege, network, and resources.

 

 

  • Understand how we got here. The injustices impacting the Black community, and other marginalized communities, are rooted in a complex legacy of laws, assumptions, and biases that have been ingrained in our everyday lives. Start unpacking this information by taking time to learn. Please note, some of these materials contain mature language.
  • Internalize a few key terms
    • Recognize how different concepts describe or diagnose the issues we face.
      • BIPOC: an acronym referring to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
      • Diversity: the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.
      • Inclusion: the act of making sure diverse individuals are fully welcomed through involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized.
      • Intersectionality: the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.
      • Systemic racism: a product of the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups. It is separate from any individual's intent.
      • White privilege: a phrase capturing how white individuals have greater access to power and resources than people of color do.

 

  • Introduce inclusive thinking to children

We are all reflections of what we learn in childhood. The Atlantic has resources explaining How to Talk to Kids About Race, and organizations like The Conscious Kid promote access to children's books written by, and about, underrepresented groups.

Additional resources include:

 

  • Follow the Color of Hockey blog. The blog, run by NHL.com regional writer William Douglas, discusses race issues in the sport and spotlights up-and-coming players from diverse backgrounds.
  • Follow the Soul on Ice podcast. Hosted by Kwame Damon Mason, Soul on Ice is "a current new age look at Hockey and all that we love about the game" - with a racially conscious lens.
  • Watch films that focus on underrepresented groups in the sport. Several documentaries have explored the relationship between race and hockey:
  • Use children's media to spark discussion. Young fans and youth hockey players can learn about the importance of inclusion through children's books that naturally lead into discussion. Suggestions include:

 

 

  • Make diversity mainstream. Black fans, and all fans of color, deserve to see themselves in hockey-related imagery. The population of the United States is more than 40% minority, and people of color make up more than 20% of the population of Canada. Whether you are sharing in-game highlights on social media or designing newsletters for local youth hockey teams, ensure that people from marginalized identities are regularly represented.
  • Empower diverse storytellers. Our lived experiences shape how we tell stories - and stories shape how we see reality. Because the media industry is disproportionately non-minority, support the next generation of storytellers by encouraging young people of color to write or blog - covering their local community or the hockey community from their eyes. Black Girl Hockey Club is one example of a diverse blog in the hockey community.
    • There are informal storytellers in your life, too. When your friends who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color share their experiences with racism, make sure you genuinely listen and receive their truth - even if it leads to uncomfortable conversations.

 

  • Buy from black-owned or minority-owned businesses. Supporting Black- and minority-owned businesses helps to bolster local economies and increase diverse job opportunities. Official Black Wall Street is the largest platform for Black businesses in the United States. AfroBiz lists Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in Canada.
  • Wear the message. Allies can signal their support for diverse communities by wearing apparel that promotes inclusive values. Putting messages like "Hockey is for Everyone" on shirts, hats, or other wearable items is a symbolic way to create a welcoming environment for people of color. The NHL donates funds from each purchase of Hockey is for Everyone merchandise to our partners working to promote diversity, inclusion and equality.
  • Celebrate meaningful moments. Though allyship with diverse groups should never be limited to specific days on the calendar, it is always worth recognizing significant cultural moments - like Martin Luther King Day, the anniversary of Willie O'Ree breaking hockey's color barrier, International Women's Day, and Pride.

 

  • Address issues when they arise. Calling out racist, sexist, homophobic, or other indefensible language/actions is critical to supporting individuals with marginalized identities. Ignoring these incidents is extremely harmful because it results in normalizing bigotry and hate.
  • Challenge non-inclusive family members and friends. To ensure your allyship is not merely performative (more tied to your social image than your commitment to the cause), encourage any non-inclusive individuals in your life to begin their own journey toward culture change. Amnesty International and Teaching Tolerance offer guides for confronting family members and friends.

 

 

  • Vote - and make sure others do, too. Achieving true racial justice will require legislative reforms at the local, state, and national level.
    • If you are legally able to vote in the United States, check here to see if you are registered and register here if you haven't already done so.
    • If you are legally able to vote in Canada, you can check your registration and register to vote here.
    • Consider hosting voter registration drives in U.S. areas that have historically had low voter turnout. NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org has guidance for hosting drives in all 50 states.
  • Complete the census. If you live in the United States, the Census determines how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year. It also determines how many seats in Congress each state gets. Respond to the 2020 Census here before the deadline (October 31).
  • Demonstrate. If you notice an incident that violates racial justice - an individual who was mistreated, a crime that went unpunished, or an inequity that has been ignored - you can organize a safe demonstration to call attention to it. Community Tool Box, an initiative of the University of Kansas, offers a comprehensive guide to Organizing Public Demonstrations. Be sure to abide by the local laws in your area.
  • Sign a petition or pledge. Signing petitions that you agree with can fuel momentum for change. Change.org lists petitions related to racial justice here. In the United States, you can petition the White House on any issue that matters to you. In Canada, you can submit electronic petitions for the House of Commons to review.

 

  • Create forums to advance diversity and inclusion. No matter where you live, work, or play, diversity and inclusion have a huge impact on the health and well-being of everyone present. Creating forums to discuss these issues -- for example, by hosting community town halls or panels on racism, or starting an inclusion committee in your organization -- can drive action to improve your immediate environment.
  • Champion diversity in your everyday spaces. Make yourself available as a mentor to individuals from underrepresented identity groups who are furthering their athletic or professional careers. If you are in a position to hire new staff members, review inclusive hiring practices so you can reach out to a variety of prospective candidates.

 

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