Violence impacting the Black community: OCRCC responds

This past weekend in Buffalo, N.Y, ten people were fatally shot at a neighborhood supermarket. This incident was a targeted act of violence in which the offender researched local demographics, and arrived to purposefully harm those living in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The racially motivated attack has resulted in grief, anger and fear:

“Today our neighbours, people who left their homes to simply go to work or get groceries, were targeted by a racism-inspired act of domestic terrorism,” New York state Congressman Brian Higgins said.

This act of white supremacist violence is not an isolated incident, and reflects many decades of both explicit and systemic anti-Black racism in North America. The NY attack is not a one-time incident of hate crime in the United States. In addition, we are aware that such incidents are not isolated to the United States.

In 2021, a report noted an increase in extreme right-wing online activity in Canada: online hate included proliferating online groups that share derogatory discussions, material which celebrated the deaths of minorities, and material which promoted racist conspiracy theories[1]. At that time, the report authors noted: “extremist conspiracy theories have flourished,” and minority communities “have been subject to increased hate crimes and harassment”[2].

Racism, white supremacist and prejudicial attitudes, and more subtle forms of social inequalities can and do inform incidences of violence. For example:

  • Acts of violence against racialized people happen today; the incident in Buffalo, NY is one example
  • Acts of violence against racialized people have happened historically, and white offenders were not held accountable: sexual violence, among other types of violence, is linked to Canada’s colonial past. Historically, those “who could – or were perceived to – evade sexual impulses were awarded higher social and political status…This privilege was not afforded to Black women who faced the daily realities of slavery, including state-mandated tolerance of sexual violence perpetrated against them”[3], as well as violence against Indigenous women and children
  • Ongoing systemic violence has an impact on Black communities. These include:
    • Failed system responses that result in harm to racialized people
    • Failed system responses that result in a lack of justice for racialized people: Black women, for example, face increased barriers and victim-blaming when reporting sexual violence or engaging with the criminal justice system as victims of crime[4]
    • Systemic racism also affects how a community feels about or interacts with systems such as healthcare, services or police.

Working to address racism means acknowledging the impact of the past, as well as talking about what is happening right now.

If you are affected by racism, including the pain of facing this most recent incident of anti-Black violence, please know that we care about you. We stand in support of you and against white supremacist violence.

If you are a white or other racialized ally, there are things you can do to build anti-racist skills and to support Black communities. You can:

  • Learn about the history of anti-Black racism in Canada, such as:
    • The different and racist treatment of Black people in education, healthcare, criminal justice, immigration and refugee, and child welfare systems[5]
    • Anti-Black racism and its overall impact on social determinants of health[6]
    • The impacts of anti-Black violence on individuals and communities
    • The impacts of racism on Black youth: Black youth are under-represented in mental health and treatment-oriented services, yet overrepresented in containment-focused facilities[7]
  • Reflect on the biases this has created in you and in others
  • Speak out against these biases and attitudes
  • Remain as a witness or supportive bystander in situations where someone is affected by racial stereotyping, attitudes or violence
  • Make space for Black community members to talk anti-Black racism and its impacts: communities bring expertise about the strengths of the community. Communities most affected are best-positioned to identify better ways of doing things and ways to work together to address racism
  • Commit to be a part of identified solutions.

Violence cannot be separated from a broader context – one in which those that are harmed and those that cause harm exist in a larger system of social norms and inequities. The horrific hate crime in Buffalo, NY is just one example of this.

OCRCC’s understandings of sexual violence is rooted in an analysis of violence, and the ways in which violence affect certain communities and people differently.  Addressing racism is a part of this work.

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) is a network of 30+ community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, go to https://sexualassaultsupport.ca/support/.


[1] Hart, M. with Jacob Davey,  Eisha Maharasingam-Shah,  Ciaran O’Connor, Aoife Gallagher, for Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada. Online: https://www.isdglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ISDs-An-Online-Environmental-Scan-of-Right-wing-Extremism-in-Canada.pdf: 48.

[2] Hart, M. with Jacob Davey,  Eisha Maharasingam-Shah,  Ciaran O’Connor, Aoife Gallagher, for Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada. Online: https://www.isdglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ISDs-An-Online-Environmental-Scan-of-Right-wing-Extremism-in-Canada.pdf: 4..

[3]Pietsch, N. (2015). “Doing Something” About “Coming Together”: The Surfacing of Intersections of Race, Sex, and Sexual Violence in Victim-Blaming and in the SlutWalk Movement. In Teekah A., Scholz E., Friedman M., & O’Reilly A. (Eds.), This Is What a Feminist Slut Looks Like: Perspectives on the SlutWalk Movement (pp. 77-91). Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.

[4] See: Cossins, Anne. “Saints, Sluts and Sexual Assault: Rethinking the Relationship Between Sex, Race and Gender.” Social and Legal Studies 12 (1)(2003): 77-103; Pietsch, N. “‘Doing Something’ About ‘Coming Together’: The Surfacing of Intersections of Race, Sex, and Sexual Violence in Victim-Blaming and in the SlutWalk Movement.” This Is What a Feminist Slut Looks Like: Perspectives on the SlutWalk Movement, edited by Alyssa Teekah et al., Demeter Press, Bradford, ON, 2015, pp. 77–91. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1rrd96j.11. Accessed 1 June 2020.

[5] See: Bond, M and Shauna Hunt for CityNews. March 10, 2022. Group calls on Ontario Human Rights Commission to investigate ‘systems abuse’ of Black students. Online: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2022/03/10/ontario-black-students-systems-abuse/; and Hendry, L. and Benjamin Shingler for CBC News.  May 16, 2022. Family shocked by daycare’s call to child protection without warning, question if discrimination at play: English-speaking Black families in Montreal up to 5 times more likely to be flagged to authorities. Online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-youth-protection-1.6447882

[6] Paradies Y, Ben J, Denson N, et al. Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2015;10(9):e0138511. Published 2015 Sep 23. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138511

[7] Gharabaghi, K., Trocmé, N. and Newman, D. (2016). Because Young People Matter: Report of the Residential Services Review Panel.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

  • Hockey Canada and sexual violence: Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) responds

    Hockey Canada continues to face critical reaction to its management of sexual violence. The sports organization – which is responsible for establishing rules and standards, promoting the sport, and international play [...]

  • U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, impacting the right to abortion: OCRCC responds

    The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, declaring that the constitutional right to abortion, upheld for nearly half a century, no longer exists. We at Ontario [...]

  • Supreme Court rules extreme intoxication defence available for violent crimes: OCRCC responds

    The Supreme court has ruled that extreme intoxication is an available defence for violent crimes. As sexual violence survivor advocates, we at Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) are both [...]