In the 30 years, I have been working on social problems—whether it's the overdose crisis, disability awareness campaigns, poverty, addressing racism or elder abuse—the priority issue people with lived experience want to address is stigma.

When we are pushed out of systems and networks of people, it is a natural human response to feel shame. And when we feel shame, our knee jerk reaction is often to isolate and internalize the messages that we are not worthy. When we see that a whole system was involved in pushing us out, we can lose trust not only in those systems, but also in people.

Shame is the glue that binds a system into place.

When we recognize the impact of shame and stigma, there is so much we can do to facilitate change.

We can support the voice, dignity and leadership of those most impacted by any social problem. And when we are bystanders, we can be vigilant in building and maintaining a culture of belonging.
Stigma and Standing Up to Racism - shame is the glue

The story of Joshua Telemaque

I was so moved when I read about Joshua Telemaque's story where he was the target of racism and how a community of people stood up and created a powerful video message for him.

Addressing the shame and stigma within racism

One of my favourite quotes about addressing racism effectively is by Nelson Mandela. He wrote, "...however hard the battle will be, we will not surrender. Whatever the time it will take, we will not tire. The very fact that racism degrades both the perpetrator and the victim commands that, if we are true to our commitment to protect human dignity, we fight on until victory is achieved.”

My invitation for you is to notice where you experience shame or witness stigmatizing attitudes or behaviours.

And then do something - anything - to uproot it and replace it with dignity.

When we do this, our actions speak louder than words and are essential in our efforts to build a culture of belonging for ourselves and others.

Where to Start

Learn More

Addressing Racism From the Inside Out

Access a proven approach that builds a culture of belonging and, together, let's address racism within ourselves, as bystanders and as a target.
Addressing Racism From the Inside Out - 3-Part Series - Online Training
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


About the Author

Jessie Sutherland

An international speaker, trainer, and consultant, Jessie Sutherland works with organizations and communities to engage diversity, build belonging and ignite intercultural collaboration. Her approach creates sustainable community change that effectively addresses a wide range of complex social problems.

Don't know where to start?