I’m not Black, an American and I haven’t lived in the US. Nor am I a politician, or an expert on race or ethnicity. I do not speak for Black people and I have no desire to save anyone. But I have spent years researching gender diversity, have a diverse circle of friends, believe that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and know that the problem of systemic and institutionalised racism has not been solved, yet.
The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Monika Diamond have dominated the news and sickened our hearts recently. But these horrific stories are not new. Black, brown, and people of colour have been persecuted and violently abused for centuries, and right now they’re dying at a staggering rate from COVID-19. Listening to my friends and watching from afar – from a position of white privilege, I know I can’t be passive or silent any longer. This moment demands action.
That’s why, I spent weeks quietly observing, learning more, and deciding to use my voice and influence to empower, inspire and create awareness. You see, diversity, particularly gender, is important to me. I seek an equitable world. I believe it’s possible, and that’s one of the reasons why in the past year my work has led me to perform ground-breaking research and give keynotes on abuse, harassment and wrongdoings. Each time, I’ve spoken about changing behaviours, and have encouraged my audience to look back at history and apply many of the lessons that we’ve learnt from social movements like the abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights, and #MeToos, where people united in solidarity, and said, “enough is enough” and then took action on the cause.
When I referenced the abolitionists, I talked about what made them different to those who were anti-slavery. Now I’m not going to give you my speech, but in summary, the difference was in the actions that they took.
Unlike those who were anti-slavery, who said things like being a slave owner was sinful and horrible, and that they couldn’t imagine being one, and that they’d never do it, the abolitionists knew that the sentiment, no matter how noble, would not have moved the needle for one enslaved person. And, that’s why the abolitionists crossed a psychological, emotional and moral bridge, and moved from saying “I don’t agree with it” to “not on my watch,” which resulted in different action. That was the difference.
I believe this is significant, because no matter where you are in the world, what colour your skin is, what your religion, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation is, or how much of privilege you may have (or still have), that is where we are now. Systemic and institutionalised racism is everywhere. It’s not just a US issue. Research suggests that negative feelings towards ethnic minorities is increasing in developed country regions, and that increasing migration is not leading to enhanced tolerance.
With this in mind, and because we need to be driving more impactful action, I decided to put an action kit together. My ambition was for you to know what more action you could take, without overwhelm. You see, it’s easy to sign up to a petition, to turn your Facebook profile picture black, to write a post, or to join a march or protest. It feels good doing these things, and whilst it shows support, which is vital, your well-meaning actions can’t stop there. It can’t be business as usual thereafter.
Although I included what I could within the action kit I created, along with a multitude of references and caveats that said what’s contained within it was the tip of the iceberg, I now realise there's more work for me to do. As tempting as it is to get it to you, it would be a disservice.
So, if you understand that there is no easy road to freedom, that Black lives matter, and that only by acting together in unison can we achieve reconciliation, peace, justice and success for all, then I hope you'll understand why I've now chosen to remove it.
I will continue to serve you to the best of my ability, to be humbled to learn, and to being the best role model I can be for racial and social equity. I know I will never understand what it's like to be a Black person, but I stand committed to building a better world and to ending systemic and institutionalised racism.
Borrowing some lines from Nelson Mandela’s famous inaugural speech in 1994,
“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us…..”
Now I want you to hear from you…
- Tell me what steps you've taken or are taking to educate yourself on race, ethnicity and unconscious bias.