Last week, Straight.com posted an extraordinary commentary by Mo Dhaliwal, a digital agency founder and public speaker on diversity and inclusion. In it, he relayed how he was invited to appear on Global TV's Focus B.C. show, heard a joke about blackface off the air, and then spoke about it during a taped interview. That episode was never broadcast, causing Dhaliwal to accuse the station of censorship.
On September 27, Dhaliwal was invited onto Focus B.C. to have a discussion about this with Global B.C. news director Jill Krop. The moderator was Focus B.C. host Sonia Deol.
Dhaliwal raised serious concerns about corporate diversity and inclusion committees that only include staff and not outside people who aren't within the existing power structure.
He called them "the corporate equivalent of saying I have a black friend".
"Having a diversity and inclusion committee doesn't solve anything because, I think, that's a bunch of people, frankly, waxing poetic about diversity and inclusion," Dhaliwal said. "And what I would tell you is look at the makeup of that diversity and inclusion committee because if it's made up of racialized people that are within your power structure, meaning that they are a staff complement, chances are some of them are probably defending your position on this, are probably defending Global's reaction even, because they exist within a power bubble."
You can read the entire transcript below.
Sonia Deol: "During a mike check, a Global News employee made reference to 'blackface'. This was prior to a segment with a panel intended to discuss how people were feeling about the revelation of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau dressing up in blackface.
"Now, one of our panelists heard the remark and commented on it during the taping. As a news organization, we hold ourselves accountable acknowledging our own role in this situation. Global News did conduct an internal investigation and decided not to air that episode. We also apologized to all involved.
"Now we have invited one of the contributors from last week, Mo Dhaliwal, back to have a discussion about the incident and the deeper issues of systematic [sic] racism. Global B.C.'s news director, Jill Krop, is also joining us with Mo Dhaliwal. Thank you very much both of you for what is meant to be an authentic open discussion. Mo, I'll throw it to you, first of all, how are you feeling right now?"
Mo Dhaliwal: "I'm feeling okay. I want to correct a couple of things in the setup. It wasn't a reference to blackface. It was a blackface joke that was made. And I'm here because I don't think that Global B.C. held itself accountable because accountability would have been actually standing up and taking responsibility but that's not done when an issue is silenced. And apologizing to all involved is kind of an impossibility, right? Because I received multiple phone calls of apology—as if I can offer forgiveness on behalf of anybody that could have or would have been offended, right? The only way to apologize would have been to apologize on-air to all of society, right? Because that's who you're offending, who you're marginalizing. When you're tearing up the social fabric through his humour, apologizing to a couple of people that are on the panel? That's meaningless. So that is why we're here."
Sonia Deol: "Jill?"
Jill Krop: "So I think, we've had several conversations just to bring the audience up to speed. You've had several conversations with our colleagues, my employees, and with upper management in the company. And we've, I guess I want to say we've sort of agreed to disagree because we are happy to be held accountable and to have this conversation. Absolutely. And so for everybody, I apologize on behalf of Global News. The comment was inappropriate. Disciplinary action has been taken. And I will say this has been a fairly large learning curve for us as an organization. And I don't mean to be trite when I say there are a lot of moving parts. But when I look at the conversations that have taken place between you and we—us as Global—it took several days and even through this week I've had more conversations with people just really to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. And I know you have been unwilling to accept our apologies but, but I do think..."
Mo Dhaliwal: "It's not unwilling. It's who am I to accept an apology and offer forgiveness for blackface?"
Jill Krop: "But I would say that it's not up to you to hold the whole situation on your shoulders. In that..."
Mo Dhaliwal: "I'm one of many."
Jill Krop: "Right."
Mo Dhaliwal: "And so if I see an injustice anywhere, I have to speak up for it."
Jill Krop: "Right, so we apologize for that injustice and we are working towards ensuring that those kinds of things don't happen again."
Mo Dhaliwal: "So you mentioned a learning curve. And I think that's my biggest issue here because I want to know where on the arc of that learning curve Global exists. Right? Because I don't think it's accountability when you look at the amount of labour it took to get to this moment. Because I very much doubt had I not raised a stink, frankly, last Friday, had really challenging conversations with the reporter involved, then with a producer, Michael Hennigar, who then escalated it to you. Then I escalated it to your boss, Troy Reeb. Like, without the labour of, like, 96 hours of my life of pushing—like, 'do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing'—I very much doubt that if on Friday, if I had not escalated it or started escalating it, I very much doubt that we would be sitting here having this conversation right now."
Jill Krop: "Well, you're allowed to have that doubt but I will respectfully disagree with you. You weren't privy to all the conversations we were having and all the discussion we were having about how we move forward from this. We hold people accountable all the time. That's our job. I am perfectly willing to have our news organization be held accountable. And, you know, this has been a bit of a slow process in that we saw you on Monday night. And you said you would get back Tuesday morning. I respect that you're incredibly busy in your job. But I had to ask you on Tuesday night: 'Where are we? I haven't heard from you.' And I, and I, so I..."
Mo Dhaliwal: "So hold on. What you say about the delayed response..."
Sonia Deol: "I do want to jump in. Hello. I do want to jump in for both of you. Because for viewers, the minutiae here and the details will not make any sense. What I do want to focus on is, if it's okay with both of you, is that when comments are made in workplaces, such as the incident we had here last week—and it's been an emotionally charged week for a lot of people because of the conversations around the incidents over Trudeau. When people say they make comments without intent, when you know the people that have made the comments have no malicious intent behind what they've said. Mo, I know that you say for you, that doesn't matter. Can you explain to people why you feel that way?"
Mo Dhaliwal: "So there's two things I would say there, right? One is about comments in the workplace, right? Because we weren't—last Friday, the comment in the workplace isn't what was going to be aired. We were discussing a societal issue around racism and I discussed another incident of a societal issue around racism, right? So to me it seemed like censorship when the lens was turned on Global to say this happened here as well. And again, Global isn't alone in this, right? You're a corporate institution. It happens in every corporate institution. And so..."
Sonia Deol: "I think that's the point I'm trying to make as well. There's going to be a lot of people watching who may well have heard such a comment this week. For those that don't understand that making jokes with the term blackface have a deeper impact, what do you want to say to people that don't get that?'
Mo Dhaliwal: "Well, what I want to say is that just because it doesn't impact you, that's not good enough. This particular reporter was operating in a context where there was an unconscious bias that kicked in and unconsciously—you can call it inadvertent—but that's still not good enough because what that tells me is that person is operating within a context that the ramifications of such a comment were not well understood. So that's why just punishing the individual wasn't good enough and that's why I chose not to name this person. Because I didn't want that singular incident to be about firing this guy is somehow going to solve the problem because Global B.C. has a systemic issue that you guys need to address. So when you say that you're now working to solve it, I'd be really interested to hear how you're working to solve this."
Jill Krop: "Well, I will say that it's not been solved worldwide."
Mo Dhaliwal: "I'm saying 'working to solve'. How are you working to solve this?"
Jill Krop: "So, so I will say, this issue and these discussions go on right around the world. And so to say, so suggest that Global B.C. will solve this..."
Mo Dhaliwal: "That's not what I said. What are you doing and working to solve? What is the work you're doing? That is the question I'm asking. I'm not saying 'have you solved it?' I'm saying 'what is the work?' "
Jill Krop: "So as, well, you know you spoke to that person who had a, has a very frank and honest conversation with you about recognizing that they have unconscious bias. I've shared with you that we had a session on bias and unconscious bias that was networkwide that all employees were asked to watch and, you know, reflect upon. We have a journalistic principles and practices guidebook which helps guide us through all of this. This has also prompted many discussions amongst staff. And as the news leader I will continue to drive this forward and continue to have those discussions. In this particular incident, and I hate to keep sort of diving right into this little piece because I think even you agree that this is just one tiny piece of the puzzle. But in this incident, I recognize now that that employee is with another group of employees who aren't regularly in this newsroom where we don't stand for racism or misogyny. Where there is inclusion. Where there is diversity. So I have to double down and work harder so that every single one of our news team is aware of that. I've sent out several memos this week. I've had conversations with people. We want to open the dialogue and move this forward. I would ask you: what are some of your suggestions to help solve this?"
Sonia Deol: "Let's look at those suggestions after a short break now. We'll be back after a couple of minutes on Focus B.C."
Sonia Deol: "Welcome back. Well, we're continuing our discussion on racism with Global B.C. news director Jill Krop and community activist Mo Dhaliwal. No, just before the break, Jill put it to you, that she's interested to hear what are the suggestions from someone like you on how to make, you know, workplaces a safer, better environment that is free from racist jokes. You know, that applies to schools and all sorts of institutions. So what are the suggestions going forward?"
Mo Dhaliwal: "Well, the first suggestion, you know, seems the simplest but also the most difficult, which is when something happens, don't silence it. Right? That was the first thing that Global B.C. did, almost like a kneejerk reaction last Friday. Oh my God, the lens is on us. Shut it down."
Jill Krop: "Again, that is your perception of the process."
Mo Dhaliwal: "When an incident happens, don't silence it. Secondly, one of the defences that was raised in regards to whether this is a systemic issue at Global B.C. was 'oh, we have a diversity and inclusion committee.' Right? I think one of the problems with looking at those things as a potential solution, I think, is the corporate equivalent of saying I have a black friend. Right? Having a diversity and inclusion committee doesn't solve anything because, I think, that's a bunch of people, frankly, waxing poetic about diversity and inclusion. And what I would tell you is look at the makeup of that diversity and inclusion committee because if it's made up of racialized people that are within your power structure, meaning that they are a staff complement, chances are some of them are probably defending your position on this, are probably defending Global's reaction even, because they exist within a power bubble, right? And I don't think that their voices can be fully embraced and that they can fully express actually themselves. I will tell you since this incident last Friday, and since word started getting out about what was going on, I've had multiple conversations from South Asian people that work in media that were telling me not to screw up the platform. Right? Almost in defence of this, because, you know, they've worked in this media environment for a long time. And I got, trying to offer me reasonable advice—saying look man, we don't get enough airtime as it is. If you mess this up for us, we'll get less airtime."
Jill Krop: "And you were offended by that.""
Mo Dhaliwal: "Yeah, not offended. Because I just had to understand the oppression that they're living with on a daily basis."
Sonia Deol: "So when, sorry to jump in and I don't want cut you short. Workplaces like Global have diversity and inclusion committees. And panels that messaging comes through. What is it, going back to the suggestions, what is it that that's missing? What else needs to be done so that so that all workplaces to have a very clear guideline on what is acceptable and what isn't? What else needs to be done."
Mo Dhaliwal: "I think a corporate institution like Global B.C., if you have a diversity and inclusion committee, I don't think it can be made up of anybody that you have power over, frankly. I think that a diversity and inclusion committee has to be made up of external people that can tell it how it is. Right? Like actually give you some, you know, plain advice. And if there's recommendations made, be able to actually hold an organization accountable and say, 'Based on the recommendations [that] were made, if we established a baseline, how close are you to implementing some of the recommendations that were made?' Because I would posit that anyone within your power structure is gong make some half-hearted recommendations but are they really going take you to task? Right? And I would very much doubt that in the past week that your own staff that are racialized, I very much doubt that many of them took you to task and said 'Jill, this was wrong what we did?' "
Sonia Deol: "Jill, what do you want to say to that?"
Jill Krop: "Well, it's funny, I had an employee come up to me this morning and say 'I'm proud of us.' I said 'what do you mean?' He said 'I'm really glad we're doing this.' I said 'so am I'. And so what I find Mo..."
Mo Dhaliwal: "You're reinforcing the point that I'm making, which is for people within your power structure, it's not safe for them. It's not safe for them."
Sonia Deol: "Hang on Mo. Let Jill. Let Jill respond to this. Jill, what are the challenges you're finding with this?"
Jill Krop: "Well, I think, I think you're assuming a lot. But I do understand where your assumptions are coming from. I really do. What I found fascinating this week was the divide amongst your community. Because you aren't all on the same page. I don't think everybody who was suggesting to you, hey don't make a big deal, is oppressed. I've also talked to other people on the panel and other people of colour, and the reactions are varied. And they're quite drastically different. I'm not saying that's right or wrong. I'm just saying it is. If we're striving to move forward, I think we need productive solutions. And I think we need to stop the sense of finger-pointing and blame because that doesn't move us forward. And as a woman, I understand some of this. I will never ever say that I know your experience, nor can you know mine. But in some ways, many of us have felt these same things. So we're owning it. We're accountable for it. I get that we're not on the same page on that. But you help us. You have a voice. We brought you back. You help us move forward."
Mo Dhaliwal: "So the first think is, again, reiterating the point about diversity and inclusion committee, I'll think that diversity and inclusion committees..."
Jill Krop: "Are bogus."
Mo Dhaliwal: "are the lie that corporations tell themselves."
Jill Krop: "Okay."
Mo Dhaliwal: "And this is why I also believe that in your response, you know, you, on the phone, you got quite annoyed with me when I questioned integrity. Right?"
Jill Krop: "I did."
Mo Dhaliwal: "And here's—and I reflected on that in the last few days. Like, why was I questioning your integrity? And you hold yourself in very high integrity. And I get that. And the reason is when you've already lied to yourself, it's not a lie when you're telling others. Right? So when you have a diversity and inclusion committee that has no power in the situation—and I had just said to you right now that racialized people within your own power structure will defend your decisions— and for you to have somebody come up to me and say 'like, we're doing great here,' that doesn't surprise me. Talk to a diversity and inclusion committee that doesn't have anything at stake that you don't have power over and see what their reactions are. I'm not saying that the opinions won't be varied. But you know to some extent, talk to people that have some level of critical analysis around what's actually happening here."
Jill Krop: "Well I invite you to join our diversity and inclusion committee."
Sonia Deol: "On that note, we have run out of time, but both of you, thank you for joining us on that discussion."