I am very proud to be at the University of New Brunswick and call Atlantic Canada home. The whole conversation around racism is a very hard conversation to have with my kids and students because you simply have to look around and it is obvious that this a very serious issue.
I was a minority growing up in Zambia and then a minority in the U.K. for my education and finally a minority in Canada, where I have spent over 20 years of my life. As a visible minority, there is a serious shortage of role models and most of us so far have simply just ignored the issue.
It is a hard subject to talk about because it means being vulnerable. You try so hard to fit in that the thought of rocking the boat is something you just don’t want to do, because people could say, ‘If you don’t like it, just leave.’
Most minorities, when you see them in a position of leadership, will tell you that you have to work hard and opportunities will open up. But they will just not talk about the hardships. The core element about being a leader is building relationships with people. But when you are a minority, it is hard to fit in and build those relationships, so most people get to a particular point and hit the glass ceiling.
I will say that 99.99 percent of the population are not racists. We need to make sure when we ask for change, those 99.99 percent understand our aims. They would love to work with you to make the changes happen. So let us start to have the conversation and build a place that is respectful, loving, kind and caring while creating lots of opportunities for everyone.
We need to have this conversation so that our kids see us doing the right things and fixing a major issue that we have ignored.
Dhirendra Shukla is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fredericton-based Gray Wolf Analytics, and is the Chair of the J Herbert Smith Centre for Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick.
Editor's note: Given the events of recent weeks, we wanted to host a discussion on whether people from the Black, First Nations and other minority communities are welcomed, supported and funded in the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem. We've asked representatives of these communities to offer their thoughts. This is the seventh article in this series.