Roubina Karaminassian

MACES Governor/Senator 2

“Recognition” vs “Otherness”: A Look at EDI for Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month


Equity, diversity, and inclusion… I ponder these words, and I realize that today we work to spread awareness, working to enforce values that, in fact, have been an integral part of humanity since long ago.

As a descendant of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, born and raised away from my ancestral territories, I have always associated with my community a burden, one of demanding recognition and conciliation in the face of worldwide indifference and denial by the Turkish government.  The genocidal crimes of 1915 against the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire form a bitter chapter in my people’s past, but it does not by any means constitute the entirety of Armenian history. Sadly, the genocide and its intergenerational trauma has chased my people to this very day.

But we are not the only ones! The atrocities that Armenians faced were a predecessor to further cruelty throughout the 20th century. The Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide… these are, unfortunately, just examples. All these historical events are commemorated during the month of April, and here we see the reason why this month was declared Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

Looking back at these atrocities over the last century, we can also highlight the presence of equity as a core element of the humanitarian acts that followed. The resources and initiatives, created and promoted by foreign countries to help those who could be rescued from massacres, serve as a testament to the acknowledgement of equal rights. The facilities offered to immigrants and refugees sent to other countries, those that work to preserve their cultures, language, and religion, showcase the value of diversity. The opportunities given to those searching for a second home – to settle into a community and find the freedom to work towards the reconstruction of one’s homeland, the preservation of historical sites – this is proof of inclusion.

So why do we need to remind ourselves of EDI, when it is already part of the human approach? The way that I see it, new trends and events influence humanity, and gradual progress requires people to adapt – and throughout this process, new conflicts are constantly on the horizon. The delicate balance between individual and collective gain, justice and bias, love and hatred, often appears to be doomed to collapse.

Remembering these tragic incidents in human history is by no means grounds to accuse or spread hatred towards regimes who have committed genocide, or to pressure the communities descending from their governing powers. Unless we know our past and appreciate our present, we cannot build a collective human vision for a better future… The storytelling part of it is a mental wellness strategy that aids in the recovery of people suffering from collective trauma. It is particularly highly recommended in these difficult times of collective frustration faced by the entire world due to the pandemic.

With the recent news of Quebec’s initiative to add subject matter on genocides to its educational curriculum soon, the province is working to back up EDI with substance. It offers hope that overcoming repression and embracing openness once again opens pathways for creative reinventions, building up stronger and healthier societies.

I see two opposing concepts that make up the core of EDI: “Recognition,” versus “otherness.” “Recognition” shows us why EDI comes from a place of abundance, while the concept of “otherness” runs contrary to the principle of inclusion and leads to the failure of EDI. When we remove the concept of “otherness,” we are able to show greater recognition for communities outside of our own. The different needs attributed to “other” communities, are in fact our rich variety, our diversity.

So, let’s believe in humanity. Let’s make equity, diversity, and inclusion a part of our everyday lives as students and professionals and renew these commitments with a clear conscience.