Race or inclusion discussions always solicit interesting reactions in all of us, regardless of our own colour. If you are White, you naturally feel as if someone is questioning whether you are a racist or not and you respond defensively. As an ethnic or minority individual you feel obliged to either want to fit in and not say something, or risk being labelled as being outspoken, disruptive or even militant.
Over the years I have had many a conversation when someone has been discussing race and their response has been, “I’m not racist, I eat curries,” or, “I buy things from Mr Singh at the corner shop.” Yet they complain about ethnic people taking over jobs and localities, and make comments like “I wouldn’t walk down a back alley if there was a Black guy there.”
Unsurprisingly, it is a matter of fact, that our conscious and unconscious beliefs inform and drive our behaviours. What we hear or see can and does inform our views. If the news and people in prominent positions tell us that the Chinese community are responsible for COVID, all of sudden people are going to wrongly, but naturally, react and start alienating Chinese people. This is regardless of whether that individual had actually been in China at all.
There are so many examples, both anecdotal and scientific evidence, of environmental factors influencing race related actions. You cannot simply tell people to become more inclusive. OK, maybe you can, but as to whether that would lead to meaningful change is questionable. One of the direct impacts of 9/11 on me was the number of times I would be “randomly” stopped at airports. On one occasion even being literally interrogated in America, whilst travelling with the wife. I must admit was a very scary experience for us both. With the only other people in that room being of colour.
The last 18 months has seen a series of world events, time and time again, which have rightly brought race and equality to the fore. From Black people being unjustly killed by police officers in America, to Black and Ethnic Minority people being personally and professionally more negatively impacted by COVID.
Of course, we all need to do something about this, we have a moral and ethical duty to make sure regardless of who you are, and where you come from, you get the same chances as those around you.
As organisations now drive to become more inclusive – not only as it is the right thing to do, but equally importantly it can have a significant economic and social benefit – the challenge is to make sure leaders don’t simply take a tick-box approach of adopting a checklist, and saying job done.
We must be inclusive in our approach to inclusion, making sure we talk to those with lived experiences. That we take a ground up as well as a top-down approach. It is really important that we all get comfortable with having those uncomfortable conversations as it is only when you get out of your comfort zone that you start to grow.
Every approach should be person-centred. If you are trying to make your organisation more inclusive, then talk to, rather than at, those people that are currently excluded. You will be surprised at how much we all welcome the opportunity to share, when done so with the best and right intentions. Let’s not simply follow an inclusion by design approach, but more of an inclusion by default. So that we can all win the human race equally.
To find out more about the work ABC and partners are doing on this area please do reach out.