The Canadian Armed Forces says it must reflect the diversity of the country that we defend, and that we need a military that looks like Canada. Dr. Lisa Gunderson is back for the second part of the discussion on things that military families can do to help embrace diversity and ways to reduce bias.
Dr. Lisa Gunderson is an award-winning educator and frequent guest speaker on racial issues.
- The need to see yourself represented.
- 7:09 What military families can do to embrace diversity.
- Ways to reduce bias.
- 15:39 Important to realize and recognize your own biases.
- Take little steps, know that you’re going to make a mistake.
“Know that you’re going to make a mistake, or two or three, and that is fine. Make it, learn from it, say you’re sorry, and keep going on.”
– Dr. Lisa Gunderson
- Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Canadian Armed Forces
- Canada’s Defence Policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged
- Harvard Implicit Bias Test
- This podcast is made possible by funding from True Patriot Love Foundation.
- Thank you to Organized Sound Productions for their help bringing this podcast to life.
Transcript by Otter.ai
This podcast is made possible by funding from True Patriot Love Foundation.
You’re helping to dismantle the system, then you are part of making the Armed Forces more diverse, more inclusive, and looking more like the populations that they want to serve. Know that you’re going to make a mistake, or two or three, and that is fine. Make it, learn from it, say you’re sorry, and keep going on. Don’t quit, don’t give up at all. We need you to not quit. And if you do all of those things, then we’re going to start getting the types of systems that we want. And the Armed Forces is going to get the type of Forces that they want as well.
The military lifestyle is all encompassing. It’s difficult, but rewarding. Dynamic, very, very dynamic. Unpredictable. You are in the Canadian Armed Forces or a family member connected to the military. You know the lifestyle can be a challenge. The military lifestyle is always changing. In this podcast, we explore the world of deployments, postings, and transitions. This is The Military Lifestyle. Here’s your host, Jon Chabun.
The Canadian Armed Forces says he wants to reflect the diversity of the country that we defend, and that we need a military that looks like Canada. I continue my conversation with Dr. Lisa Gunderson about what the military community needs to do to better embrace diversity and some ways to reduce bias.
So, last time, we talked you were talking about needing to see yourself represented and the HMCS Ottawa, they came back from deployment last year there was an interesting story in the base newspaper, the Lookout during the deployment, which had talked about the number of crew members with Korean heritage, you think there was something like five out of a ship of 250 people, and I went to the homecoming and it was cool. There, they were, it was pretty inspiring to see.
In Vancouver, the second Service Battalion 80% of its personnel are Canadians of Chinese ancestry. And when you think about that, and what that looks like, and Vancouver is one of three of the major cities in Canada right now, that are majority minority cities, it’s not just important for kids who have Chinese ancestry. But that’s important for other visible minorities to see and for non visible minorities to see as well, that these different types of people that we represent the Canadian Armed Forces and that becomes really important. One of the things is they have they’re talking about in this report is a gender based analysis plus. And basically, it’s this idea of when we think about the armed forces and their policies and the way that they engage in recruitment and retention, how they vision themselves. If we look at it through a lens, a gendered lens, what does that look like, right? And what would that look like through a racialized lens? And do people see things in the same way? And we know different people, we all have different walks of life, we see things in multiple ways. And so by talking to and consulting with all these different groups, about how do we keep you here, how do we even recruit you? We can’t ask a group of white persons for example, how do we recruit indigenous people? We have to go to speak to indigenous people about what is meaningful to you. What would make you want to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces and stay? We have to go talk to the people that were interested in, coming into the fold. One of the important things that we have to think about, and how do you do that if you have such a small percentage of us represented? Well, you have to go out into our communities. And you have to speak to our elders, and you have to speak to our leaders in our communities. And what are the types of podcasts we listen to? Right? And what are the types of shows we watch? So as you’re building all of this stuff, you want to make sure that you’re talking to the groups and in what languages are we speaking in, as well, right? There’s a lot that the system understands it needs to do. The money that needs to put to make that happen, as part of the strong, secure and engage. They talk about the core components is understanding diversity. And inculcating that into what we do and into our policies, that’s going to help reflect get a Canadian Forces that reflects the population at large.
And it sounds like it’s very much some of your ideas sort of bottom up rather than top down.
It’s a combination of both. A lot of the ideas that the report talks about recommendations, they just need to implement, period, they, they’re just excellent. My background is in psychology. As a clinical psychologist, one of the things we know especially around the military piece, it’s not just about bottom up, but top down is critical. At the end of the day, if leadership decides that this is what it wants, then that’s what is going to technically happen in terms of policies. Now, where you get into some potential issue is I’ll give you a specific example. They’re going to mandate diversity training. They’re going to mandate. One of the recommendations is to mandate unconscious bias training. Great. So we’ve got the mandate. That’s wonderful. But then who do we have doing the training? Part of the problem when they have talked to people in the past, because this isn’t like this is new information. They’ve been doing trainings on things like women in the military for decades, right. But part of the issue is, if you’re mandating courses by people who don’t believe in the idea, don’t believe that this is worthwhile, what’s going to happen with your training, it’s not going to go well. They’re two issues when you have to make sure that the people that are in the leadership, and the people who are engaged in whatever levels of training are actually people who believe in what they’re doing. Because if not, it just becomes two hours of your professional development day. And you go and you do the checklist and then you go home. And then nothing changes. And then we’re still shocked that these things are happening 10, 15, 20, 30 years later. Yeah, that’s problematic.
What can military families do to embrace diversity?
One of the things that military families can do is ask people, first of all, who are you? And what I mean by that is often times when we think about embracing diversity, we think about it in terms of checklists. I’m embracing diversity if I go see Crazy Rich Asians, right? Instead, we don’t really ask our families have you done like a cultural audit of your house? And people are like, what do you mean? It’s like within your own home. If you look at the pictures right now around your house, do they reflect diversity? If you think about your family, and your friends, the close friends, the people come and eat dinner with you? Do they reflect diversity? And I don’t necessarily mean just racial, ethnic diversity. But in all the other diverse ways that we talk about when you think about where your kids go to play. Is it diverse there? Do they get to see children of different ways of being being there as well? When you think about where you go for a holiday, or the types of foods that you eat on a regular basis, or something as simple as, what does your dentist look like? Or your doctor or your kids school? How many of your kids going in? I have a, I have children in middle school and high school. Well, how many of their teachers reflect diversity? And, if they don’t, how are they getting that information. Is even the materials that they’re reading, when they come home, are those diverse materials that they’re reading from diverse authors? And if they’re not, well, are you part of your parent group? And do you ask why that’s not the case. It’s, it starts with us individually. And I think a lot of times we are looking for other people and looking at other people. And it’s also recognizing that we’re diverse people ourselves, especially if you’re part of the privileged group. How often, for example, if you’re of European descent, have you talked to your children about what their cultural heritage is and not just being Canadian. Canadian is a nationality, it’s not your ethnicity. Canadians come in all different types of ethnic backgrounds and racial backgrounds. So what is your peoples history? Well, we’ve been here 100 years. Yeah, but you were here before you were somewhere else before you came here, unless you’re of indigenous ancestry, right. So what does that look like? And just having conversations about I have two boys. And we often talk about what does that mean to have male privilege? You know, what does that look like? What does that mean in terms of how you’re talking about it when you’re with your friends, so a piece with a group of young, other people who perceive themselves as male, and they’re a group of men, and they make a joke about women, not being stronger, can’t go into the military. I need my son to be able to stand up and say, hey, hold on, no women do go into the military. They’re strong. Women actually kick butt. You know, I have to talk to him about him using his power and privilege when he’s in those circles when women aren’t there. Race, racism and talking about race doesn’t start when I as a black woman walk in a room full of white people. No, there’s when white people are in the room, race is in the room. Because you have a racial background. If a group of white people are speaking and somebody makes a joke about a Chinese person, well, we need somebody to say something about that. Part of it. What the military families can do is how are we encouraging diversity within our our own families and within our own communities, are you able, for example, to share different TV programming ideas, different podcasts, different books written by different authors? Like for Christmas that just happened? That would have been cool, like expand your diverse ideas, right? Those are some of the things that we can do. Having a conversation like this is helpful, asking people to think about the different ways that they live their lives in their own communities, and getting out and visiting other communities. Things like that can be really, really helpful. We want people to stop being colorblind. And if there’s one thing that we could ask people to do is please don’t teach your children that right. Don’t teach your kids to be colorblind. It comes from a good space. It’s the idea of oh, no, we don’t see color. Right? Because color doesn’t matter. What matters is the person inside. Well, no my colour does matter. The fact that I walk around with black skin matters, it matters in terms of health outcomes, it matters in terms of how long I live my life. It matters in terms of perceptions. And it also just matters in terms of my history. It’s really important I like being black, and it comes with wonderful traditions and, and specifically Black as a race but ethnically, I’m both Jamaican and I was born in the States that comes with lots of food and culture and music and different ways of being and talking. And in terms of the actual skin color that actually matters. Because when slavers came to get us, for example, they didn’t stop and go over each Jamaican. Are you Nigerian? Are you Kenyan? Oh, well, then you don’t have to get on the boat. Right? No, they took us all because our skin colour has huge implications. So color matters. And when we tell people to be colorblind, then that’s not helpful, because then you can’t help fight racism. If race doesn’t exist. You can’t help fight it if you don’t believe that. It exists, right? So what instead we want people to do is be colour equitable, be gender equitable, be ability equitable. And what that means is you look at me go, yeah, yep, she is these different things. And she’s just as good as everybody else. Right? It’s that balance that we want. I want people if you’re ever with somebody, and you know, I had a mom, she said, we were at a store. And my daughter who happened to be white, pointed to this dark man and goes “Mom look he’s black,” and she was oh-my-gosh she was so embarrassed. She’s like, no. No, just put your hand down and no it’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. And the opportunity that you have, though instead, it’s like saying, well, the pointing part, that’s probably just not a good thing to do anyway, right as the parent, but yeah, honey, we don’t point. But yeah, he does. He has dark skin and look at you, you have light skin. And then we move on. And it’s one of those things that it’s important to not confuse kids, they clearly can see the difference. So saying, No, it’s not real. Well, that’s a lie. It’s like, no, it’s right there. But you want to be able to say, yeah, people come in different ways. And it’s equitable. And that’s okay. That’s different than being blind by that. So if you see somebody who is a wheelchair user, and somebody’s pointing to that no, no, no, we don’t talk about that. No, you just say, you know what, there are different ways that people get around, some people walk with two legs, some walk with one, some use a wheelchair, some use a cane, and then it’s okay. So I hope that those examples kind of make sense. But please, please encourage the idea of equity. Because when you do that, it helps break down the stereotypes, which is one of the fundamental problems that we have with the lack of diversity in our armed forces, is that we don’t think all these other groups have something to contribute, and they do.
We talked about bias, and microaggressions What are some ways to reduce bias?
One of the ways to reduce bias is to first recognize that we all have it. And I know that sounds simple, but it really isn’t because again, we’ve been taught that people have bias these are these big, bad people. And if you admit to having a bias, then there’s something wrong with your a bad person and that’s just not true. You’re just human. So the very first thing is scrap the idea that you don’t have a bias, we all have a bias. And so your job is to first figure out what is yours? What is the thing that really kind of makes you uncomfortable? When you hear you know, if you see two men walking down the street holding hands, does it make you feel a little strange, right? What is the thing that really gives you a moment of pause or takes you out of your comfort zone? If you see a woman wearing hijab, does that bother you? So there’s certain things to think about just in your own space is think about yourself. And once you figured out what your biases in your quiet corner by yourself, then ask yourself, where did I learn that? Like, how did that happen? You didn’t come out of the womb that way. Right? You didn’t come out go hello. I do not like black people. That is not how that happened. Think a little bit about, huh? How did that happen? Where did I learn that idea or stereotype? A really quick exercise that I like to do is just put down different categories of people. Women in the military, or Muslims in the military, or just the category of women, just the category of Muslims. For example, the category of persons with disabilities, set a clock for 90 seconds, just a little timer and write down every single stereotype you can think about, about that group of people for 90 seconds. Don’t filter it, don’t do anything, just do it. And then when the 90 seconds are up, look at your list and see if most of them are positive or negative. Because notice, I didn’t tell you to write down negative stereotypes, just stereotypes and see if more positive or more negative, and then see if they are if they’re mostly negative. Think about where did I learn those from? You know, was that something that your parents talked about? Was it your own personal encounters that you’ve had in your life? Is it stuff that you saw on the media, or things you’ve heard and seen on TV, or in the newspaper, like where did all that stuff kind of come from for you. And just beginning to identify that we have found is been one of the number one ways to make your unconscious biases a little bit more conscious for you. For those of you who like quizzes and things like that, there’s something called the Harvard Implicit Bias Test. And there’s a lot that can be said about it, but it’s a nice, quick look at unconscious bias across a variety of realms, that has probably the most research behind it, you can just Google that, it’s free. And it gives you kind of an idea of what type of unconscious biases you may have and kind of at a bit of what level. And the reason why that might be of interest to you is if you’re kind of aware that you might carry that unconscious bias, you might be a little bit more conscious of what you do. And I’ll give a very specific example. When I did this, maybe 20 years ago, it showed that I had a bias towards a slight heterosexual bias. And so for me, what that meant is oh, okay, so I don’t necessarily think about or consider some things that persons who are gay may encounter or deal with. And I didn’t really think a lot about the fact that I had this kind of slight heterosexual bias, like, what does that mean? And at the time, I was a teacher, and a gay student of mine came up to me after one of my lectures and said, you know, Dr. G, that was a really good story set of examples you gave I was teaching sexuality at the time, and we were talking about relationships. And she said, I loved your lecture. It was so good. But I notice that all your examples were heterosexual. I was like, what? And she’s like, yeah. And I thought about it like, Oh my gosh, she was right. And I mean, heterosexual. Not even like Chris. Right, which could be Christian, or Christy, right? It was like, No, there was just some straight out heterosexual couple names. And then I looked at some my exams and it was the same exact thing. I felt great that the student felt comfortable enough to let me know which is awesome that she called me on it. I would like to say if anybody calls you on something, take that as a gift. Because we don’t have to take time out to call people on stuff. I get so many daily microaggressions if I take time to point something out to you that I was offended, that shows I care about you and that I actually think you might be able to change that’s an awesome gift. So she was called me up on it, which was great. And then second, it allowed me to really think, wow, I never thought about it that way. Third, I had to then intentionally, consciously then start to look at my examples and go, whoa, I don’t have a clear example here. So that’s the thing. It has to be a very conscious effort, once we realize and recognize the bias. The other thing I would suggest is if you really can’t think of your own biases, ask your friends and family they know. Yeah, just go to think I have a bias towards any group or they’re like, yeah, Mom, it’s this. It’s like, Whoa, really? Yeah. They know.
Is there anything else you’d mentioned before we sign off?
I would just like to say just in general, that when it comes to all these isms that are impacting the armed forces, and that’s, you know, whether it’s racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, any of these systems, that they can be changed, and we do have the ability to impact them. I don’t think they’re ever going to go away. But we can minimize their impact. If you really think about that, that if you really believe that that’s possible. And I really believe that that is possible, then we all have to make a decision if we’re going to either help to dismantle those things, or are we going to continue to perpetuate this system? You can’t be Switzerland. And that’s what I want to let people know you can’t be neutral in this. We’re all on this path. We’re all part of these systems. We’re born here so that’s part of it, we just have all of these stereotypes and these biases that come with it. So you either have to make a decision that you’re going to do something about it, or you’re not. And if you’re not, the systems are going to continue. But if you decide to do something simple, you don’t have to do something like me and make your life’s work about it. But just having the conversation with your friends over coffee, about something that you read about, you know, they’re trying to add more women, what is it that we could do to help that? Just having simple conversations with people and encouraging them. For example, an indigenous young man who wants to be part of the Armed Forces, encourage that. Look at your family. And next time you think about doing a family night, pick a movie from a different culture that you never would have thought of, because a lot of people don’t necessarily have access demographically to different groups. But the beauty is this, if you actually just even listened to different groups through podcasts that actually can change your level of bias. You don’t have to have people in your neighborhood to make these changes happen. Change the things you read, you watch on TV, that you listened to, from the groups that you don’t have access to. If you start to do those kind of things and start to talk to your kids about the importance of what are the privileges they have, and how to use their power effectively, like the example I gave with my sons, if you can start to think about doing those things and you’re helping to dismantle the system, once you do that, then you are part of making the Armed Forces more diverse, more inclusive and looking more like the populations that they want to serve. We can do that because you are already have the fundamental idea that we are stronger together. Diversity is strength personified. So I just really want to encourage people to go out there and just do something simple, a little step at a time, it is a lifelong thing. There is no checkmark that you’re going to get that you’re now diversity good. We’re culturally competent. Forget that this is a lifelong journey that you’re on. So take little steps, know that you’re going to make a mistake, or two or three, and that is fine. Make it, learn from it, say you’re sorry, and keep going on. Don’t quit, don’t give up at all. We need you to not quit. And if you do all of those things, then we’re going to start getting the types of systems that we want. And the armed forces is going to get the type of forces that they want as well.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
A big thank you to Dr. Lisa Gunderson for her time and wisdom. You can learn more about Dr. Gunderson at OneLoveConsulting com. You ever get a chance to hear her speak, I’d really recommend it.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Military Lifestyle. To learn more about this episode, and to check out our other resources, like the deployment app, go to EsquimaltMFRC.com. A special thanks to True Patriot Love Foundation for funding season one of this podcast and to Organized Sound Productions for bringing our idea to live. Please share this podcast with your military family or with someone living the lifestyle. Subscribe to The Military Lifestyle on your favorite podcast app. Your support is greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening.