Inclusion and Equity with Youth Leader, Connor Lang

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The following question was presented by Chad Nico Hui, Director of Diversity and Inclusion with the YMCA of the USA.

What do you consider to be the biggest opportunity and challenge in being a catalyst for inclusion and equity in your role as a youth leader? As a global citizen?

I think the biggest opportunity gained from working towards inclusion and equity as youth, is the new perspectives we are able to gain at a young age. Considering many of us have been leaders in our community from young ages, many of us are exposed to unique world views that allow us to shape our own perspective accurately at a much younger age. As well, it allows our impact towards equity in our community to be much more long-lasting and sustainable, as we begin to work towards inclusion at younger ages as volunteers. When looking at the disproportional amount of disenfranchised and marginalized citizens in poverty, in the criminal justice system, and the under-representation of minorities in both managerial and political settings, it is extremely apparent the value of inclusion and equity.

For example, Canada has severe over-representation of black and minority ethnic (particularly First Nation) citizens in jail. It comes partly from the lack of resources, education, and safety in areas where minority citizens are concentrated that puts many children at risk. However, North America and Europe especially have systematic problems within court systems that lead to an disproportional overcharging of minorities for equal crimes to exact white counterparts. Working towards the elimination of these systemic problems means we gain a better understanding of the intersectionality of struggle. Through volunteering, we both aim to solve these problems as catalysts of equity, but also learn of these problems through firsthand experiences. From volunteering, we gain a unique perspective of the relationships between race, gender, sexuality, and class within our society that all trace back to problems within various institutions.

In continuation, although we gain this crucial knowledge both as youth leaders and global citizens, there are also many challenges. As youth, especially on a global scale, there seems to be an intense stigmatization of the value and accuracy of our opinions; it is extremely easy to feel drowned out. I would be naive to say that I don’t have a lot to learn, but the same is true for everyone. When viewing problems on inequity, which transcends the all aspects of a person (such as age), it is important to value opinions equally, especially when coming from a place of lived experience. As a volunteer and as a youth who is more connected to the global community then any generation before, it is important that my experiences and efforts be not only acknowledged, but valued.

 

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Connor Lang is 15 years old and lives in Calgary, AB. He is an active volunteer with YVC Calgary and serves on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.