Toronto bus shelter posters target anti-black racism in hiring

A new anti-racism campaign involves posters asking employers to "be honest" and check to see if they have an automatic bias when it comes to choosing to hire white workers while dismissing black ones.

Ads challenge employers to reflect on possible bias in their choices

Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, says the accumulative affect of racism takes a toll on young people, showing up in higher stress levels for students and their families. She is leading a campaign called Toronto for All, launched by OCASI and the City of Toronto. (CBC)

People using Toronto public transit will be seeing some striking posters in city bus shelters as part of an anti-racism campaign targeting the way employers may be dismissing potential hires based on race.

The new campaign that launched Friday aims to spark conversations about ingrained racism. (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants)

One of the posters features a black man beside a white man. Underneath is the question: "Which one would you hire?" The posters urge people to confront their attitudes about race.

They're part of a campaign launched by the City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. OCASI executive director Debbie Douglas is leading the campaign called Toronto for All.

Douglas says the posters ask employers who see them to think about their gut reaction to the images. 

"And to be honest with themselves, and to say, 'Why did I automatically choose the white guy, why did I automatically choose the white woman? What does that mean?'"

She said organizers don't expect the ads to change systemic racism, but they may help Torontonians raise their awareness and join the fight against racism. 

"Anti-black racism happens on a daily basis ... in all of our lives," she said.

"In my own life, it's everything from walking into a high-end store and being approached right away and told how expensive the goods are. It's walking in to do a keynote address and it's assumed that I'm a student who's walked into the room."

Racism is "pernicious, it's buried, and it's always there," Douglas told Metro Morning on Friday as the campaign got under way.

As for inequality in the workplace, Douglas said black women in Canada make 37 per cent less than white men and 15 per cent less than white women, citing a 2011 report from the Wellesley Institute, by Sheila Block and Grace-Edward Galabuzi, called Canada's Colour-Coded Labour Market.

Racism, she said, also shows up on the TTC. "I watch how black students are over-policed in terms of having to prove school identity if they're using a student card as TTC fare."

She said the accumulative effect of racism on the psyche shows up in the stress levels of young people and their families, "and in the kinds of illness we see in black people, everything from hypertension to diabetes."

Last June, OCASI launched a similar campaign targeting bigotry against Muslims, following attacks on women wearing hijabs and negative comments about newly settled Syrian refugees.