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A Man's Suicide Started With A DEI Consultant's 'Antiracism' Workshop

Are bullying, nasty labels and encouraged pile-ons really the best way to fight 'systemic racism', or was the purpose to galvanize it?

hangman's noose against a blue background
Image by Tammy Cuff from Pixabay

A 60-year-old educator for the Toronto District School Board committed suicide last month. He’d spent the last two years of his life shamed and defamed by the fallout from a black consultant labeling him a ‘white supremacist’ and a racist when he politely and logically challenged her claim that Canada was more racist than the United States, in a DEI Zoom workshop in 2021.

Kike Ojo-Thompson of the Toronto-based KOJO Institute was contracted to teach ‘anti-racism’ at the Toronto District School Board. She mocked Richard Bilkszto, holding him up as an example of ‘white supremacy’ in action, as ‘evidenced’ by his refutation of her claim about Canada.

Not one of Bilkszto’s colleagues defended him against her attacks. The only person who spoke up was an assistant facilitator to defend the consultant.

You can hear part of the recorded exchange here.

Bilkszto challenged her politely and offered facts and his personal experience - ‘lived experience’, in woke parlance, which is held as almost the highest standard of ‘evidence’ by the progressive left - and she responded by noting there are inequities in the system. Yes, he agreed, but he encouraged his fellow workshoppers to research it so they can see the differences between Canada and the U.S.

He acknowledged racism in Canada and admitted there’s room for improvement. Ojo-Thompson responded by shaming him for being white and daring to express an opinion in contradiction of her own.

Specifically, “You and your whiteness think that you can tell me what’s really going on with black people.”

Ojo-Thompson offered her opinion on the level of race relations in Canada, and Bilkszto, an Ontario principal who’d lived and taught in Buffalo, pointed to Canada’s healthcare system, and greater spending for poor students (including black) than that for American students.

But he’d really gotten under her skin, and she couldn’t just let the impudent white man with his damnable facts and logic and greater experience go. She mocked and shamed him again the following week (without him speaking up this time as a catalyst) as an example of ‘white supremacist resistance’: “One of the ways that white supremacy is upheld, protected, reproduced, upkept, defended is through resistance and, like I said—I’m so lucky,” she laughed.

She revelled in her opportunity to bully a white man. “Who would’ve thought my luck would show up so well last week,” she crowed in front of Bilkszto and everyone, “that we got perfect evidence, a wonderful example of resistance that you all got to bear witness to, so we’re going to talk about it, because, I mean, it doesn’t get better than this.”

Bilkszto took a leave of absence after that and reported the incident to the WSIB, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, after the TDSB refused to investigate his complaint about her performance. The WSIB found Ojo-Thompson’s behavior to be “abusive, egregious and vexatious, and rises to the level of workplace harassment and bullying.”

The TDSB, by the way, paid $81,000 for this ‘anti-racist’ employee abuse. Since it didn’t support Bilkszto’s complaints, he subsequently sued the TDSB, which has allegedly sued the KOJO Institute for breach of contract, for the same amount Bilkszto demanded.

Putting the racism in ‘antiracism’

For the KOJO Institute, diversity stops at whites-only racism and bias. In fact, Ojo-Thompson ordered Bilkszto and the other attendees to uncritically accept what she decreed. Her facilitator told Bilkszto, ‘If you want to be an apologist for the U.S. or Canada, this is really not the forum for that,’ and Ojo-Thompson concluded the exchange by informing the class that ‘your job in this work as white people is to believe’—not to question—claims of racism.

Shut up, white people. Black skin is infallible.

Ojo-Thompson didn’t express regret for Bilkszto’s suicide, preferring to center herself as the victim of a right-wing witch hunt trying to damage her so-called ‘good work’. It’s all about her, the real victim.

Now, what about all the good, passive little co-workers sitting silently in their seats while Ojo-Thompson bullied a colleague and ran down their country? Did they agree with her assessment that “At least (the U.S.) had a fighting posture against at least the monarchy, here we celebrate the monarchy, the very heart and soul and origins of the colonial structure”? Did she forget, or is she simply ignorant of the fact, that the British abolished slavery in 1807, fifty-six years before the Americans, over which the latter fought an ugly civil war?

This intellectual dishonesty is what makes corporate DEI initiatives so contentious. The far left pretends only the right opposes DEI ‘training’, but they ignore plenty of us liberal critics, who formed our objections in response to CRT-fueled victimist extremism rather than while marching on Charlottesville.

Those of us who believe in a more equal, universalist approach to solving human problems, and especially racism, raise our hackles at any racism, not just our or the other tribe’s.

We know you can’t be the problem you profess to resolve.

Speaking as someone who lived for over forty years in the United States, in three different parts of the country and eighteen years in Canada, I can’t believe anyone can make the claim the US is less racist. One of Canada’s many charms is our more open race relations and easier, if far from perfect, acceptance of immigrants.

Maybe that’s just Toronto. Friends who live or have lived in farther-flung parts of the province describe traditional redneck attitudes and racial intolerance, so this city is not necessarily representative of the rest of Ontario or Canada. But we don’t have a lot of the black/white problems the U.S. has. When racist shit goes down in The Sticks, it’s often against the First Nations (Indigenous).

I wrote a few months ago about a DEI consultant at Uber who was put on leave not because she bullied white people, but because she made some non-white women feel ‘uncomfortable’ with a couple of talks called Don’t Call Me Karen, exploring the racism behind the label. Unlike other DEI workshops, this one challenged a different group to ‘do the work’ and challenge their own prejudices. Not surprisingly, these women weren’t up for it.

Ojo-Thompson doesn’t have the right to demand uncritical white obeisance. She needs to learn the difference between a ‘fact’ and an ‘opinion’ and accept an intellectual challenge with logic and reason, not racist abuse.

Maybe the others in Bilkszto’s group didn’t have his American experience. Maybe they felt unqualified to challenge a black woman claiming racist harm. I can understand both reactions, but I question whether some of them could have stood up for their colleague.

There’s strength in numbers, as Ojo-Thompson learned the hard way a few months later.

How to shut down a DEI abuser

Ojo-Thompson’s confrontational approach created problems in the Ontario city of Sarnia, close to the US border. The KOJO Institute was hired for antiracism workshops. Madame ended the first and only workshop prematurely when City Councillor Bill Dennis and several others pushed back, accusing her of promoting critical race theory, describing her as “militant, smug, self-righteous and condescending.”

He complained, “It was turned into a radical (session) and if you’re white, you should feel ashamed of yourself,” and described his brief time with her as “a horrible experience”.

(What if the TDSB’s good little virtue signallers had challenged Ojo-Thompson?)

Dennis’s critique didn’t sit well with some when the imbroglio hit the news media. He complained of ‘horrible calls’ on his cellphone, a threat to his dog’s life, and claims his car got keyed.

Some have alleged that he and others went over the line in their pushback against Ojo-Thompson. There may be truth to that, there are no recordings, due to a technical glitch.

Sign with a silhouette of a person with a stick that says The beatings will continue until morale improves
CC0 2.0 image by Gen Kanai on Flickr

Does DEI training even work?

Toronto’s DEI leaders have reacted with horror at the news of Richard Bilkszto’s suicide: They, too, are more concerned about the backlash as a threat to continuing DEI training.

Harvard social sciences professor Dr. Frank Dobbin argues you can’t train away bias, and that in fact such training may activate rather than suppress it.

Another professor at Princeton notes that “A lot of our research shows training makes the dominant group – usually white men – feel threatened and fearful of being excluded. They fight back instead of internalizing [the training]”.

Hard to imagine why when it treats white skin as an indelible mark of ‘white supremacy’ and they’re told to shut up because, white.

Other research in the decades-old DEI field supports that it’s of limited value in changing peoples’ attitudes. Positive effects often wear off in a matter of days, and they can even reinforce stereotypes by bringing them up to the conscious mind. Poorly-executed DEI training can be harmful, as the City of Austin found with a DEI consultant who wasn’t abusive, but inept, inaccurate and occasionally offensive.

Resistance also comes from employees feeling they’re ‘controlled’, and in many companies, hiring diversity actually drops, with fewer black women and Asian-Americans in management. A theory is that talent recruiters don’t want to feel ‘strong-armed’ in their hiring, but perhaps also they’re hiring on merit and the POC isn’t always the strongest candidate. Hopefully no one’s getting turned down because they’re a POC with a strong resume but the unspoken ‘quota’ has been reached, or the HR director’s feeling pissy from last week’s DEI workshop.

The good little disciples in Bilkszto’s Zoom call nodded like properly-indoctrinated virtue-signallers, but did they really believe the things Ojo-Thompson was saying? One article noted there was behind-the-scenes texting indicating at least some of them thought what she was teaching was wrong but no one had the balls or labia to stand up for their colleague, someone roundly described by those who knew and loved him as a committed progressive.

While not all DEI trainers are likely as outrageous as Kike Ojo-Thompson, her training style is ripe for debate. How much of a no-brainer is it to realize you never change minds by berating others for being such awful, terrible, oppressive people? Ojo-Thompson shouldn’t assume just because others bobblehead that they’re necessarily agreeing with her. Maybe they just want to get the hell out of there without suffering vengeful abuse themselves.

I suspect a real overhaul could save DEI but I’m not sure the industry has the balls or labia to ‘do the work’.

DEI as it’s presented today smells strongly of ‘woke’ ideological indoctrination rather than addressing genuine systemic inequity, so maybe they could abandon the ‘social justice’ angle.

DEI can illuminate unconscious biases if everyone is ‘heard’ and no one feels attacked. Dark skin is no untouchable arbiter of truth, and being on the receiving end of racism is no fun for anyone.

Would workshops be more effective if they were roundtable discussions in which everyone pitched in their ideas, comments, and questions to try and find common understanding?

There’s got to be a better way than training that assumes perpetual victimhood for the ‘marginalized’, encouraging them to think of themselves as helpless, chronically-aggrieved victims, while concomitantly encouraging them to bully others, thereby demonstrating how disempowered they are not.

Madame herself renders her own lessons meaningless when she fails to answer challenges with thoughtful responses. DEI can’t be a channel to vent hostility by the emotionally unintelligent.

The KOJO Institute lost a separate contract out of this fiasco and has blacklisted the City of Sarnia for any future workshops. Bilkszto’s lawsuit wasn’t resolved at the time of his suicide, and I assume neither has the TDSB’s against the KOJO Institute. I can only hope both lawsuits proceed and succeed, teaching an important lesson from the United States: Nothing forces others to carefully choose their words quite like the growling, snarling pack of hungry lawyers just outside.

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a post!




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