In a world where inequality echoes and continues reverberating, education remains a powerful tool for enlightenment and change. We are proud to introduce a transformative online course we helped design to challenge perspectives, dismantle prejudices, and promote a deeper understanding of racism and anti-racism. Join us as we delve into a vital conversation with Dr. Delia D. Douglas, the Director of the Office of Anti-Racism at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, and the leading subject matter expert of the course.

Can you describe the motivation behind creating the “Foundations of Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism” course?

An important point of departure was the recognition that we inherit the legacy of that which has come before. For example, we live in a present created by dispossession, genocide, enslavement, and ongoing settler colonial projects. We live these histories intimately, intensely, quietly, and, at times, grievously hurtfully (e.g., lateral and internalized violence).

Another important consideration was the overall silence regarding the meaning and significance of race and the persistence of racism in all of our institutions, including universities. In this context, it was also important to outline the pervasiveness and ordinariness of racism and the associated need to activate systemic change. Racism is a determinant of mental and physical health and well-being, and the impact spans generations.

In August 2020, the Disruption of All Forms of Racism Policy was passed by the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Executive Council. Indigenous members of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, in particular, have been actively working towards the creation of this policy (for approximately a decade), beginning with a study of the experiences of Indigenous learners in the faculty, followed by a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. It was the first anti-racism policy approved by any faculty or post-secondary institution in Canada. It is important to emphasize that this policy applies only to the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and not to all of the University of Manitoba. The policy was created in and against the backdrop of the histories and the enduring legacies of the racial violence and hostility that created the Canadian nation-state, some of which include dispossession, enslavement, genocide, the Indian Act, Residential Schools, and immigration laws.

This policy constitutes a formal recognition of racial harassment, discrimination, vilification, and racism. The policy is an affirmation of:

  • The histories of dispossession, enslavement, genocide and their legacies
  • Ongoing settler colonial projects
  • The humanity, rights, dignity, and safety of Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority students, staff, and faculty.

This policy is a point of departure, not an endpoint.

In this line, our course is one mechanism that builds on the policy by providing people with a resource to cultivate their racial literacy.

I understand that people will come to this material from different vantage points. This allows expanding our understanding of the meaning and significance of race and the persistence of racism because to combat racism in its various forms, we must first understand it.

You cannot get to anti-racism without reckoning with racism, so this course is an opportunity for folx to enhance their racial literacy by providing them with a vocabulary for identifying and speaking to each other across our differences in the service of social justice.

Another motivation involves the two racial climate surveys conducted in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (RFHS) in 2020 and 2023. The first was introduced to establish a baseline about racism, the safety of the learning environment(s) and the organizational culture of the Faculty. We wanted to understand people’s experiences, levels of awareness, and comfort with reporting incidents of racism. The second survey was implemented across the Faculty in the context of the events of the past two years, namely the parallel pandemics of racism and COVID-19 and their disproportionate impact on Indigenous, Black, and racialized minority communities. We will post a report about the results of both surveys in the coming months. I can say that the results confirm the urgent need for education and professional development among staff, learners, and Faculty. In addition to a profound lack of understanding of the nature and impact of racism(s), the results confirm the pervasiveness of racism directed at Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority, staff, learners, and Faculty. This information also inspired the creation of this course and the design and implementation of policies, procedures, education, and training of varied anti-racism strategies and procedures.

How does the course integrate into your general efforts to address racism, and what difference does it bring compared to other offerings?

At present, there are no modules that address the foundational topics of race, racism, and anti-racism at the University of Manitoba. The prioritization of racism is important because racism is entrenched in our day-to-day lives both in and outside of the university. Racism is (re)produced through silence, invisibility, and exclusion, as well as through covert, entrenched and cumulative actions that can be difficult to identify.

While the course differs from a 14-week university-level course, it represents an important and necessary intervention.

The Faculty of Health Sciences, comprised of five Colleges: Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Rehabilitation Sciences, has little room to integrate new material. The majority of the Faculty at Rady also lack expertise in this area. In 2022, the Office of Anti-Racism at Rady was created, along with a website, and library guides were curated to cover these areas.

What key topics were covered in this course, and why were they chosen?

The themes were chosen to introduce people to the topics and get folx to understand the complexity and history of racial inequality. Following the murder of Mr. Floyd in May 2020, tens of thousands marched across the United States in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and inspired global protests against police brutality, anti-Black racism, and racial injustice. Many people wanted a toolkit or a 1-hour seminar – thinking that was all that was needed to either “understand” or “solve” racism. It took us several centuries to get here…There is no quick fix or toolkit that can solve racism – if it were easy, we would be in a different place right now… In addition to having people reflect on the relationship between the historical past and present, participants are introduced to the meaning and significance of the concept of race and the persistence of racism(s).  Racism is not one thing – and the course takes this up and offers insight into the stakes – which involve life and death.

I say there is no place to stand outside of racism – and so a key point of departure in this course is not IF race matters, but How and Why.

So, one way this is addressed is that early on participants are asked to identify their positionality, to acknowledge some of the multiple elements of their identities so that they can locate themselves in relations of power.

Some of the topics covered are:

  • Why race matters
  • What is race?
  • White matters: The social construction of whiteness
  • Racisms and their impact
  • Racial ideology and racial identity
  • What is racism?
  • Impacts of racism
  • Continuing your journey: Next steps

They represent key areas that are foundational to understanding the meaning and significance of racism and the persistence of racism. They also speak to the politics of racism and the denial of it…More often than not, in Canada, when racism is mentioned, it is framed as an individual matter or an aberration, as opposed to an integral component of the creation of the Canadian nation-state. The themes/topics also locate everyone in the conversation of race, racism, and anti-racism by making clear that we are all “raced” – this is not only an element of people typically identified as “non-white.”

Who is the intended audience for this course, and how is it tailored to meet their needs?

The intended audience is very general – or far-reaching. This includes the University of Manitoba community, health care providers (as it will also be a part of the Indigenous Cultural Safety Modules – see below) and interested parties in post-secondary institutions nationwide.

I appreciate that people have a varied understanding of the foundations of race, racism, and anti-racism. As a society, our racial literacy leaves a lot to be desired. The course is intended to encourage people to understand that anti-racism is a journey, not a destination. Participants will not be experts upon completion of these modules. Far from it – I recognize that they come to this material from different vantage points and that they are on different paths personally and within their units/programs/Colleges/organizations.

Some of these materials raise deep-rooted issues. Some may prompt a more visceral response than others, and one of the learners’ challenges is to ask why that is the case. Each of us is on a personal journey, and the materials may question the values and beliefs that we hold dear. The materials provide a range of ideas, theories, and empirical evidence, some of which will be unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

What are the expected outcomes for learners who complete this course?

To disrupt and dismantle racism in its various forms, we must first understand it. This course allows learners to expand their understanding of the meaning and significance of race and the persistence of racism. You cannot get to anti-racism without reckoning with racism(s), so the course is an opportunity to enhance their racial literacy by providing learners with a vocabulary for identifying and speaking to each other across our differences in the service of social justice.

People may not realize what they don’t know – which can be disorienting and frustrating. They may also become anxious or overwhelmed when they realize how much they do not know. By the end of the course, I hope people will feel a bit more comfortable with challenges engaging in the topics of race, racism, and anti-racism. Learners are encouraged to embrace the various stages of learning so that they can then give that gift to others.

In light of recent global events, how does the course address race relations and racism, particularly in Canada?

This is done in a number of ways – early on, there is an exercise called “What do you think you know?” about some important historical moments in the building of the Canadian nation-state. This is taken up in greater detail through historical and contemporary interactive maps that refer to a range of historical events involving Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority peoples past and present. There is also a brief discussion of Canada’s history of racism, the results from 2019 and 2021 surveys, the Environics Institute for Survey Research, collaborated with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation on a national survey. This survey was meant to address the evidence gap regarding public perceptions, attitudes, and experiences about race relations from the perspectives of a range of Canadians to establish a standard from which to examine changes over time.

There is a discussion of the parallel pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism and the various targets of racial violence across the country. For example, during this time frame, remains of Indigenous children were uncovered at former Residential School sites. The country also witnessed a number of fatal encounters involving police and Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority peoples, as well as a rise in anti-Semitism through the targeting of synagogues, Jewish cultural centres and schools, and an increase in Islamophobia by the targeting of mosques, the deliberate killing of members of the Afzaal family, in London, Ontario, and acts of violence directed at Black hijabi Muslim women in Alberta and Manitoba.

How does the course facilitate learner engagement and interaction in an online environment?

The course is asynchronous and self-directed, and the learner can engage with the content in various ways. Videos, interactive maps (the resource list includes podcasts), graphics, scenarios, and moments of reflection are woven throughout the course.

The course is suitable for everyone. So, in addition to medical and health profession learners, faculty, educators, professionals, and practitioners (including administrative and other staff), the course is suitable for Faculties of Arts, Sciences, the Law, etc. The same goes for any type of organization.

How do you envision the impact of this course on the broader conversation around race and racism in Canada and globally?

This course is one structural mechanism necessary to address racial inequities; it is one component that can facilitate the transformation of institutional and organizational cultures.

I hope the impact of this course will be multifold. Given that there is no place to stand outside of racism, I hope the course will encourage people to understand that we all have a role to play in the disruption of all forms of racism. Correspondingly, I hope that it will motivate people to strategize on their responsibilities in addressing racism.

I hope participants will develop a critical analysis of the continuing significance of race, and contemporary expressions of racism(s), and antiracism(s) in Canada.

I hope folx will recognize how the historical past shapes the racial present and that racism is entrenched in our structures.

I hope that people will regard anti-racism as a lifelong journey and that it will inspire people to continue to enhance their racial literacy and commitment towards social justice.

It has the potential to create community and solidarity and advance movements for health equity and related movements for social justice.

To be sure, a new path forward toward racial justice is challenging but possible if we commit to new learning, building relationships, cultural shifts, and structural change.

So, I hope that participants will support ongoing struggles for social change and social justice both in and outside the university.

I will also say that just as these moments reflect profound challenges, they are also moments of profound opportunities to support the work toward establishing socially just futures.

Are there additional resources or tools recommended to learners for a deeper understanding of the topics?

The module has a workbook which offers additional resources regarding many of the topics that are covered. It is not exhaustive but serves as a guide. Given the breadth and depth of the topics, we didn’t want to overwhelm people with a daunting list, so it consists of a manageable list of diverse materials (e.g., videos, podcasts, articles and books).

Are there plans to expand this course into a series or to offer more advanced topics related to race, racism, and anti-racism?

Yes, in addition to being a standalone, in the fall, it will be one of the modules used in the Indigenous Cultural Safety training collection of modules that will be launched by Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute for Health and Healing (located in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba), on September 30 on Indigenous People’s Day.

With respect to more advanced topics – there will be a module that builds on some of the key concepts introduced here and one that will focus on intersectionality in the vein of Dr. George Sefa Dei’s concept of integrative anti-racism. Dr. Sefa Dei uses the term integrative anti-racism to address the fact that people’s experiences of racism are shaped by the multiple elements of their identity, such as gender, class, sexuality, and so on. Talking about intersections is necessary in order for us to be able to adequately understand and respond to the ways in which different forms of inequality work together and aggravate each other. This will be an opportunity to enhance people’s understanding of systemic racism(s) as well as the need to work with the integrative nature or dimensions of oppression. At the same time, we also need to be able to target the specificity of oppressions, such as anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

What were the most significant challenges you faced in developing this course, and how were they overcome?

The idea of creating modules that address the topics of race, racism, and anti-racism has been several years in the making. Firstly, there are many significant barriers and challenges to advancing and sustaining the work of anti-racism and social justice within post-secondary institutions. Some of these include – resources, the prominence of Equity Diversity Inclusion (EDI) topics, and a knowledge gap regarding the meaning and significance of race and racism. Anti-racism is typically under-resourced –in terms of people, programming, and funds. The funding for this module was secured through Ongomiizwin. The grant is out of Canada’s Addressing Racism and Discrimination in Canada’s Health Systems Program

Another challenge involves the prioritizing of anti-racism. We have been in a long emergency with respect to acknowledging and addressing manifestations of systemic racism.

The parallel pandemics of systemic racism and Covid 19 were another occasion where the urgent need for organizational and institutional change was laid bare as we witnessed first-hand how race shapes who lives and who dies. Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority peoples have been disproportionately impacted by the virus in Canada and around the world.

The knowledge gap also means that the work necessary to disrupt/eliminate the various barriers/social relations/attitudes/practices that promote and/or sustain racial inequality and the damage of racism has not been taken up.

Another barrier and challenge concerned the prominence of EDI language, frameworks, and strategies. Many people think that anti-racism and EDI are interchangeable. Nothing could be further from the truth. To put it simply, Equity Diversity Inclusion, which replaced Employment Equity, was not designed to address racism – systemic or otherwise. The word racism is not a part of its vocabulary. The prominence of the EDI shift has meant that other kinds of vocabularies, such as social justice and anti-racism, are no longer used, or at least are no longer central to policy debates. These terms have complex histories, which are bound up with the history of different political movements.

It was a challenge trying to determine what information to include. There are many important facets to beginning to explore the foundations of race, racism, and anti-racism, so it took a while to create an outline. Then, once the sections were filled in – we knew there was an awful lot of material to deal with. I was initially told I would have to reduce it by 2000 words – ha ha ha. Good luck! However, in discussion with the team at KnowledgeOne, we all agreed that it would not be possible, so we shifted gears to find ways to keep what was there and make some adjustments to adhere to the original work plan.

The question of evaluation tools also presented a challenge. This course does not have facilitators; one of the goals is to focus on expanding people’s frames of reference and knowledge bases, the historical and contemporary maps are one example of this.

I am also aware of the emotional responses this material elicits- specifically the trauma and pain of revisiting past and present harms for Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority folx, in addition to the many ways people resist engaging in the topics of race and racism. I wanted to acknowledge this at the outset but also speak to some of the familiar strategies of denial and deflection.

Another challenge and barrier involve the current anti- Critical Race Theory (CRT) and anti-2SLBGTQIA+ climate. This is going on across Canada, not just in the US. There have been efforts to ban books at schools and libraries in Manitoba and different parts of the country. In February this year, Canadian Security Intelligence Services issued a warning regarding the continued and heightened threats of violence against 2SLGBTQIA+ communities by individuals and/or groups who adhere to violent extremism, some of which are religiously motivated. They noted that the violent discourse is expressed by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Freedom Movement.

What advice would you give to other institutions or organizations looking to create similar educational offerings?

There is significant knowledge regarding the meaning and significance of race and racism. The only reason we are talking about race is because of the pervasive problem of racism – so we need to address it. Racism is what makes race “palpable,” and it’s the material consequences on people’s bodies and lived experiences that matter. The knowledge gap means that the work necessary to disrupt/eliminate the various barriers/social relations/attitudes/practices that promote and/or sustain racial inequality and the damage of racism has not been taken up.

We have been in a long emergency with respect to acknowledging and addressing manifestations of systemic racism. The urgent need for organizational and institutional change has been laid bare as we have seen how race shapes who lives and who dies through the parallel pandemics of systemic racism(s) and Covid-19. As long the impact of racism(s) continues to be marginalized/ignored/denied, interpersonal and social relations will be compromised, talent will be lost, and Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority people will continue to suffer trauma and harm in a host of ways which includes death.

The profound underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority people in Faculty and Senior Leadership positions – not only sustains racial hierarchies, but the Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority people who are present are left with unmanageable burdens and responsibilities.

As a result, decisions regarding the meaning and significance of race and racism are largely in the hands of those who are Not the targets…this is one way in which systemic racism is normalized – e.g., protected and sustained.

I hope that we can appreciate the connection here and see how racism is systemic nationwide and black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) people are the targets…and how past violence endures, and the trauma and harm are multigenerational.

I would recommend institutions that take a similar path to make modules that address race and racism mandatory, if possible, to ensure resources – time, money, and people available for the long term, and to be transparent, have accountability and sustainability measures in place, so that people understand the commitment that is necessary to secure social justice.

It is important to combine the courses with other structural pieces, such as updating library materials, creating an anti-racism policy and including anti-racism in existing policies, changes to curricula, along with addressing the under-representation of Black, Indigenous, and racialized minority faculty and ensuring that senior leadership positions are held by Black, Indigenous and racialized minority folx.

In a society organized around racial, sexual, gender, and class hierarchies, folx will experience their racialized gender identity and expression and sexual orientation in different ways.

In this vein, it is also important that institutions understand and address the interconnectedness of different systems of domination: white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and settler colonial projects.

It is imperative that this work has the support of senior leadership and that the urgency and necessity of this work be communicated across the institution and/or organization consistently.

For those engaged in this work – this should be their area of expertise. In addition, there should be recognition and compensation – e.g. part of performance reviews, time release, part of tenure and promotion, and financial payment.

This is a tremendously vast topic – so it is imperative that institutional strategies develop with this understanding in mind so dissuade participants from believing that completing a module(s) means that you are now an expert on the topic. This is a starting point– anti-racism is a journey a lifelong journey not a destination.

Closing remarks: Where we live now

Excellence flourishes in an environment that embraces the broadest range of people and reflects local communities. If we want equity, we must address racism.

Organizational change certainly involves uncomfortable conversations amongst the powers that be – it also involves specific actions.

Our futures are linked. Therefore, we must stand up together. The potential of strategic solidarity against systemic oppression can be transformative. We are talking about matters of life and death – so I encourage people to Stand up. Show up. Listen up.  As Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I will close with the question: Whose side are you on?

If you want to continue the conversation and find more details about the course, you can send an email at

Delia Douglas

Dr. Delia D. Douglas

Director of the Office of Anti-Racism at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba

Dr. Delia D. Douglas holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master of Science in Sports Studies from Miami University (Oxford, OH). She is the Director of the Office of Anti-Racism at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Douglas is a member of the Board of the Black Health Education Collaborative, a national organization of scholars and practitioners committed to improving Black health through education and research.

Her interdisciplinary scholarship draws upon critical race and gender studies, Black diaspora studies, postcolonial studies, and sports studies. It is attentive to the continuing significance of the legacies of enslavement, imperialism, and settler colonialism.

She has taught at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Manitoba, and at selected US universities. Some of her written work has been published in the Journal of Black Studies, Gender, Place and Culture, the Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, Callaloo, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Journal of Sport and Social Issues. Dr. Douglas’s expertise in race, gender, and sport is recognized internationally, and she has been invited to speak at the United Nations in Geneva.