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“I see you:” Former Hamilton City Manager addresses black racism

“I see you:” Former Hamilton City Manager addresses black racism

In a message directed specifically to the City of Toronto’s black employees Toronto City Manager Chris Murray wrote “recent events create feelings of vulnerability for black people,” adding, “your leaders are here to support you.”

“I am not OK with what’s been happening,” Murray wrote, calling recent events “incredibly disturbing.”

“Silence is not an option “As a white, straight, educated and able-bodied man from a two-parent, middle-class household, I know I cannot fully comprehend your experience as a black member of our society from where I sit in my privilege.”

 “When looking at the events as of late both in our own neighbourhoods and those south of the border, my horror and sadness cannot compare to the anger and profound grief you may be experiencing.”

He noted as a white man he does not have to “worry that the next George Floyd will be me, my child or my family member” and is “not constantly worried about moderating my tone so that I am not labelled or perceived as angry or aggressive.” And as he’s “almost never the only one in the room who is my race or gender,” he is “not worried that what I say or do in that space will be used as a measure of all white people or all men.”

He added he doesn’t “frequently worry that my achievements will be discounted” and has “never had to talk to my kids about how to handle a police encounter when stopped” or “worry about a random person in a public setting feeling so threatened by my skin colour that they will make a false police report that could result in my being seriously injured or worse.”

Brad Ross, the city’s chief communications officer, said Murray “was letting his black employees know that he is listening” and that the letter “has been very well received.” Ross added it was showing staff “their employer cares about them.”

“I am not OK with the status quo and I’m guessing that you’re not either,” Murray said in his letter, adding while “committed to championing our work in equity, diversity and human rights” the city needs “to do more.”

He added it’s “not up to black staff to end anti-black racism” but “up to non-black people of good conscience and humble character.”

Murray said he understands he could “be criticized for directing this message specifically to black staff” but did so because “it feels necessary to recognize the particular impact of race and racism on black staff, that these recent events create feelings of vulnerability for black people in particular and to ensure our black staff know that I and the Toronto Public Service stand with them.”

Murray declared, “I want you to know that I see you” and “I want to see more of you and your authentic self.” He also vowed “individually and together, we can and must speak up and take action for change.”

The former Hamilton chief executive offered contacts for support systems should his staff feel they need it.

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