Not to distract from the abhorrent murder of Sarah, but I do believe that the Prime Minister understands the impact of women being and feeling at times marginalised and seeks to address it because of the strong women around him who have experienced inequality. Women are not victims, they are not weaker because they are different to men. However, they are often viewed as victims in need of protection. But let’s consider why people do think they are victims and do need protection. Is it because of what they do or how society treats them that they need protection from? Surely it’s because of the way society responds to their behaviours which may differ from those in the seats of power.
Cue the Japanese Olympic Committee member, Yoshiro Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister with a record of insensitive and sexist pronouncements, (he feels women have to adjust to his expectations of conduct as opposed to building relationships with a diverse and inclusive voice and behaviours) tried to justify the lack of women at a senior level in the Japanese Olympic Committee by saying women talk too much at meetings and make them run on too long, and which led to 146k people signing a petition about their objections to his remarks and him resigning. It’s the same for black and brown people. We are not victims and do not need protection, but because of the way society often treats us laws are made and policies are written to ‘protect us’ and hence the victimhood mentality is perpetuated. We are not victims and we do not want to be protected. However until that societal shift has happened, there has to be some paving stones out down so we can all walk in the same direction to this place.
If Boris Johnson had black people, including women around him that he respected, like Kemi Badenoch, but with a different narrative to her, then I believe he would stand up and declare that in the UK we need a cultural and societal shift in values, beliefs and behaviours toward black and brown people. Until he feels and sees the impact of inequality on my life and millions like me, he and millions of other whites will do nothing to change.
Just the other day my daughter-in-law, who is Black African, went to the garage to get her car fixed and not only did they charge her for the cost of using PPE, but also doubled the amount of the service, just because of the colour of her skin. These incidents happen so often, as blacks we often discuss them among ourselves but dismiss them by not reporting them and then ultimately forgetting them.
We need a social and cultural shift in thoughts and behaviours. The recent race disparity report seeks to justify the pausing of any necessary shifts. This report concluded as a nation we are a beacon of change towards black and brown people, inclusive nonetheless. Yet we were compared to other countries whose track record is never anything to be proud of. Just like the UK government do not like being compared to other countries because of their track record in responding to the pandemic because of the differences in recording data and cultural attitudes, we should not compare ourselves to the USA or Ireland or Finland or Denmark, where numbers of blacks and its history are in no way a comparison to the UK's. For example, in Finland (where no official data is kept on ethnicity!!) there are estimated to be just 0.003% of its population believed to be black or brown and given that Finland is likely to keep sound data and have good processes for reporting racism and you have a tiny population of blacks and browns, then it is likely that the percentage of reports of racism is going to be very high - I.e. small population of black people alongside a convergence of the awareness and campaigning of BLM/Covid-19 and living in the Virtual World of high connectivity and inducing an intelligent community. If one act of racism was reported in Finland in 2017 and then 2 were reported in 2019, that's an increase of 100%. I have visited Finland and I saw just one black person the whole time I was in Helsinki. Blacks can be rare in some places in Europe and attention and wariness from others is unnecessary yet constant. These types of comparisons will allow those in power to continue to go on with their business and not change anything and stand around saying, as a recent headteacher I know said, there are no blacks around here that I would employ as they are not educated enough and they are not skilled enough. So nothing will change.
The reality is as blacks and browns, and some whites who understand the narrative of blacks and browns and join the networks, we have made it easy to ignore the larger problem of racism. Racism is alive and kicking, It is so difficult to call out, as I have recorded before, it is so subtle, unless you have eye witnesses you are rarely believed.
Just over 18 months ago I was racially profiled, attacked in the doorway of the Co-Op store and accused of stealing. The security guard who attacked me let me go after I looked horrified and visibly shaken by the horrific experience. When I complained and asked for the CCTV, the company deliberately bungled the case and lost the CCTV evidence. It wasn't until I broke down on the phone that my experience was acknowledged, but only by the person on the phone. No further action was taken, no acceptance or acknowledgement that I was a victim by the store etc. and no report filed that this was a serious case of racism. The system and the fact that I didn't have the capacity or the energy or the time to follow it up, meant that this very typical case of racism is hidden. If systemic racism didn't exist this incident would never have happened to me or people like me.
The few of us that have broken through the glass ceilings set for us by society, (made up of our teachers, police, neighbours, parents, siblings, service providers, those that pretend to open the doors to us at interviews), have had to do it with the millstone of guilt, humbleness and fear upon our backs. When we look back and see who is coming up behind us, we rarely see black or brown faces. Until the government changes its narrative instead of spending time on researching and writing reports that supports and justifies their inaction to ensure blacks and browns are no longer pitted against, nothing will change.
Just demanding that reports on ethnicities for companies of 50+ employees would make people think. Just ensuring that Ofsted challenge LAs, universities and schools in their outcome data, destination data, in house promotion, staff and pupil turnover or mid year or mid degree leaving data, suspension or dismissal, whistle-blowing and redundancy etc. for black and browns will make the shift. These are two quick wins and actions which will definitely change the mindsets of those in power and those responsible for recruitment and retention and outcomes. Let's at least consider them along with all the other suggestions for change in the race report.
In the words of Lewis Hamilton, who has broken among the most difficult ceilings to break, “Change has got to start somewhere, regardless of how hard it is.” It goes both ways, change by both parties – blacks and browns and the government. But that change has at least got to start from a place of ‘determination to change and want to change’ and done with absolute integrity.
Extracts from the report!
"Dr Sewell (key author of the report) wrote: “Put simply we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.
“The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism.
“Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.
“The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism."