Common sense helps advocacy

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A case of discrimination in the workplace reported this week could be just what it takes, unfortunately, for some to dismiss affirmative action.

We hope that won’t be a result, since there is no doubt such factors as race and skin colour have been a barrier to people over the years. But this finding by a human rights board in the province has elements that many will find bizarre or perhaps disturbing.

Rachel Brothers, formerly employed by Nova Scotia’s Black Educators Association, claimed discrimination by another staff member who said she wasn’t black enough to represent the association. Brothers, who was working as a regional educator, identifies herself as biracial.

The independent human rights board agreed with her claim that she was wrongly fired and ordered the association to pay Brothers $11,000 in general damages and lost income. In the account presented to the human rights board, Brothers described being continually undermined and faced with appalling behaviour from a subordinate staff member, who used the comment about not being black enough.

First of all, it would behoove us to recognize the aim of the Black Educators Association. It was founded in 1969 to help both children and adults from the black community benefit from the education system. Like any advocacy organization established to help people who have been disadvantaged or left struggling in the system at large, this association has a noble purpose.

Too noble, too relevant is this purpose, in fact, to get caught up in something that sounds a lot like nasty office manners. The reason for such advocacy groups is to see that people aren’t denied opportunities for being too much or not enough this or that. We don’t want in any way to encourage the concept of shades of eligibility.

We have to acknowledge that in the past race has stood in the way of advancement for people of various backgrounds. But if it turns into a tit-for-tat contest, then no one gains any ground.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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