by pk mutch, April 2022
Looking around in her rural community, Shauna Rae noticed that 95% of the faces surrounding her were white. But things are changing. And Rae was changing too.
“I rarely saw BIPOC folks at community events but I did see people of colour at the grocery store or at the dentist. Why were BIPOC folks not participating in community events? Why do rural communities still resist supporting local Pride events? Why, when we are so close geographically to so many Indigenous reservations, do we rarely go there to have a meal; to interact?” she wondered. “How could I help equity-seeking groups in my community feel safe? How could I help create a more inclusive culture within rural communities across Canada?”
Rae realized that in order to transform rural communities, she had to first transform herself.
The Personal is Political
“I started down this path by educating myself and working to unpack and face my own bias and complicity in perpetuating a white supremacist past. It was tough owning up to my own white fragility. I have learned a lot and I still make mistakes. But rather than hide from them, I continue to own them and learn from them. I figured if I could be radically transformed by unpacking my own racism and by opening up to awkward vulnerable conversations, others could too.”
The Big Picture on Rural Entrepreneurship
Only 12.9% of enterprises in rural communities across Canada are majority women-owned enterprises. Rae believes that number has the potential to increase dramatically — but not before rural cultures undergo a significant shift. For example, Rae would love to tell you how many minority women-owned entrepreneurs exist in rural Canada, but Statistics Canada isn’t counting them (yet).
“The fact is rural communities were built on capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacist, colonial ideals. (Stolen) land ownership [is] still being used as a way to hoard resources and [for] political gain. As a rural woman, you still need your husband’s support to access to capital at most rural banking or lending institutions. When you layer additional barriers like racial bias, lack of financial literacy, language barriers and the lack of access to relevant resources, it becomes very difficult to even get started as a rural minority woman-identifying entrepreneur.”
Rae, a former communications professional, understands the power of storytelling. In 2019 Rae took the next step and founded Radar Media. Today it offers a weekly podcast called Clearing a New Path and a weekly digital newsletter designed for rural women who want to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in their own communities.
How can we help change biases in rural communities? Here are three ways to become engaged:
1. Check out your local rural Chamber of Commerce. Find out what percentage of women, BIPOC folks, newcomers, and disabled people are represented by them. There are aren’t (m)any, ask, “Why?”
2. Look into the local service groups in your area. Does the Lion’s Club (for instance) in your community align with your intersectional feminist values? Does the group commit to anti-Black racism work?
3. Listen to these two podcasts on your next walk or commute: