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Decolonizing White Workspaces

Being the Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer for the CRCNA is a position that demands, “heroic rebelliousness, humility, compliance and gratitude for the opportunity.”* I recently started reading this tiny but mighty book called, Towards Braiding which basically wrote about my experience in this role of raising the profile of and improving the church’s relationship to Indigenous-Settler responsibilities. The book was written as a result of experiences in a different institutional setting though. 

When these assumptions aren’t questioned, we are silenced

In my brief stint as the Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer, I’ve had to embody and practice all those adjectives I began with. I think my sisters and brothers of colour working in white-dominated religious settings are nodding in agreement. How does one call out, call in, resist, build, teach, feel defeat and be grateful to be employed all at once? It’s a roller coaster, let me tell you. Before I go into my suggestions on how to change the narrative, let’s talk about this job. It’s been around for about ten years and always been a part-time contract position. However, the expectations are full-time and this book illustrates them. Cash Ahenakew’s poem about the ‘Academic Indian Job Description: have to know’ is featured in Towards Braiding and captures the immense pressures on the white-dominated institution’s Indigenous/PoC hires. This poem tells the story of the current culture of inclusion in the church. It demonstrates that when Indigenous/diverse folk who are referred to as having ‘thread sensibilities’ have to fit into a ‘brick’ framework (white-dominant workspaces), colonial harm continues just in a modern context. And, when these assumptions aren’t questioned, we are silenced once again either outright or from exhaustion. How? Cash Ahenakew illustrates, 

have to know

how to solve, how to fix, how to spell and to pronounce

colonialism, capitalism, racism, slavery, patriarchy

hetero-normativity, ableism, elitism, and anthropocentrism

have to know

how to Indigenize and decolonize

disciplines, protocols, ethics and methodologies

to make non-indigenous people feel good about their work

have to know

how to live with the guilt of having credentials, a secure job

and the awareness of compliance with a rigged system

built on the broken back and wounded soul of your family


Apply online now ** 

Isn’t that a job description and a half? Go back and read it again. 

I walked into this job description and now hold the space for its transformation into a newly approved full-time senior leader hire. What does that mean for me and the white-dominant workspace my replacement will acquire? How does decolonization begin in the institutional sector of the church when white people are leading it? Who is ‘allowed’ to re-create that space? Who is being invited to that  brick constructed and led table? Who determines the rules of engagement within the brick framework? How do we generatively weave brick and thread sensibilities when Indigenous and diverse people are still the minority in our workspaces? Can we do this successfully? 

How do we generatively weave brick and thread sensibilities

In order to re-imagine a new institutional space and identify the non-generative tipping points and generative ways ‘bricks’ and ‘threads’ can become braiding, we need to move slowly while healing together but also separately and negotiate and re-negotiate the way forward. So, again, it circles back to, are you ready as a white-dominated institution to de-centre whiteness so that braiding can happen? That’s a big ask and task. If you are a white leader with a full time, permanent job in a position of power in an institution that is seeking decolonization via coloured people hires, read this book, Towards Braiding, and answer those questions first.                 

* Towards Braiding pg. 25

**Towards Braiding pg. 26

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