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Understand the discrimination faced by black and minority people, support, gain information and take action. You can't be an Ally unless you understand the problem.

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I am not too sure where or how to start as I have so many things to say. But here goes.


By way of introduction, I am a mixed-race woman (White mother & Black Carribean father) who some would say was brought up in a ‘white’ world. My Carribean heritage was hardly ever discussed when I was growing up, the language (patois) not taught to us by my father for fear that we would get singled out at school if we started mixing one language with the other and be made cruelly fun of, and the culture not much spoken about either let alone immersed in me. It wasn’t until I was 12 years of age that I got acquainted with my other culture, meeting for the 1st time my Black aunties, uncles and cousins. I felt instantly home, in my second ‘home’ – joy!


As a mixed-race person, you do get subjected to forms of abuse, unbeknownst to many, where you hear on one side with a certain disdain that you’re not ‘white’ enough and on the other that you’re not ‘black’ enough, in other words that you do not belong - this is rejection. In parallel and to confuse things further, whilst it makes no such distinction, the US is still clinging on to the ‘one-drop rule’ (assigning minority status to mixed-race individuals), very much prevalent other there: one drop & one hate!

But what essentially matters is how you feel inside and dare I say that I have always felt more Black than anything else. This cannot be explained so no need to try I also tell my sisters who feel the complete opposite, which is fine as let’s be clear, it does not mean they are rejecting their Black heritage. We just respect each other’s feelings.


Feelings are what counts and make a difference, as much as respect.


I (always) feel deeply cut when I hear about racism, witness acts of violence towards Black people be it fictional (movies) or real (news/tv) and manage to watch with great difficulty movies about slavery (takes me several goes, always!) as I become defensive and reactive. In passing, one of my favourite actors turned directors, Spike Lee whom I had the immense privilege of meeting in person a few years back for a book signing preceded by a question-answer session, overtly depicts racism in America in a way that no one else does. He is one who keeps the conversation truly alive!


I know loads of other races do too and most importantly feel, it is just more profound in Black people themselves.


This piece wouldn’t be complete without unmasking racial micro-aggressions I still experience to this day such as ‘but you’re not Black!’, ‘you’re Black-ish’, ‘you’re quite pale’, ‘you’re light-skinned’, ‘I see you as White’, ‘you don’t tan’ etc.. But my Black side is very much present and 100% alive and again that’s that. I’ve also openly and shamelessly been told: ‘I couldn’t date a Black person but you, you’re OK’!! Deeply offended I was as that is turning a gigantic blind eye to my other race. How dare you as it is there, very much part of me and who I am, like it or not!


Actively feeling, actively respecting, actively listening and actively seeing past a ‘colour’ is what we all need to forge an Ally-ance for a better world for all of us and our children, right here, right now. Let’s keep the conversation Ally-ve!


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I am the mother to two amazing boys, who I love very much. The picture of them displayed was taken a few years ago when they were 2 and 5 years old. They are now teenagers – 14 and 17 and no way would they let me post an updated photograph of them, also its important for me to protect their privacy.

As they grow older and gain more independence, the more I worry about and for them. I always tell them that I am not worried about the way they will behave in public, but I am worried about the way other people will treat them or see them as a threat because they are Black. They both have amazing friends of all nationalities and creeds but the big world is full of people who will judge them by the colour of their skin. People will be afraid of them. I worry that I will not be able to protect them from those who fear them. A lot of you Allies reading this may be surprised but Black parents have the same thoughts and feelings about the safety and wellbeing of their offsprings. Why are our children being pulled over by the Police for no reason, why are they be followed around the supermarket by the security guard, why are women clutching their bags and purses tightly as they walk past and why are they not being shortlisted for a job interview or getting the job?

I do believe things will be much better for them than their grandparents and parents. The BLM movement, Covid 19 pandemic and all the civil rights protests before has brought the injustices that Black and minority people face everyday to the forefront and people are beginning to realise that enough is enough. It’s so promising to see every colour turn out to protest and take the knee. It’s also so amazing how many of you have reached out to me in support.

It is so important for us all to ensure that we are taking steps to stop and maybe eradicate racism throughout our society and especially in our work places and schools. Maybe one day – yes one day – my two boys and many others will not be (In the words of Martin Luther King Jr) judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

Everyone should be wearing the D&I hat as it is needed now more than ever especially in the era of BLM. Chief Diversity & Inclusive Officers are leaving or roles are being cut. These roles are crucial and are needed at the table - voices need to be heard.

What changes should be made?

This is a perfect storm to provide great change.This is the moment to re-evaluate and re-assess. It’s a scary and sad moment but its about making impactful change and making the workplace different.

Organisations are at different stages of their D&I journey. Take a look at your D&I goals that have been set. Have you been achieving them? Do they need to change? The problems and challenges are not new. The D&I role is crucial. Re-evaluate where you are, hear from your employees and clients – what do they want? Is Diversity, Equality and Inclusion important? YES, it always has been. It is a first responder role. White people are leaning in and showing empathy and want change to happen.

Change can’t happen overnight – Data is needed to inform – Annual employee Surveys, take action to bring Black and minority groups forward. Use data to guide and have a focus on retention and hiring.

How do you counsel your organisation to become vocal on BLM

Be active, call out things you see that are not right – there is strength in numbers. Voice things, make suggestions. We all need help in developing the answers and making change. Your employees/ customers/clients want to see how you are approaching and dealing with D&I and the solidarity statement you put out. How do you address the centuries of systematic racism within your company? – we needed this pressure to drive change.

Companies need D&I Champions, Black and Minority Employees need Allies. All Employees should be D&I Champions and Allies. Ask questions, challenge. We all have to see ourselves as champions. This is an EVERYONE issue regardless of your colour. Who is speaking up for your isolated and lonely Black and minority employees and colleagues? Directors of power within organisations don’t know everything, they may not be interested. It is important to create spaces for them to hear other voices. This moment is causing everyone to make changes . Look in the mirror and not outside the window.

Look at the structures and systems that racism has been built on and get rid of them. Create structures of how to move forward in a sustainable way

The role L&D Plays

Look at L&D broadly to tackle what is a big problem. One off Training is not enough, it has to be ongoing. Audit courses, what is needed?

Bias adjusters

Basic Diversity

Microaggressions

Allyship

What can I do as a white employee to help my Black and Minority colleagues?

You could have done more, you could have tried harder, you could have pushed back, you could have spoken out – but its not too late. Use your privilege to make changes – starting NOW.


Have cross cultural friends. Not just your Black and minority colleagues you work with, friends you hang out with outside of work - If you don’t know or understand the challenges that Black and minority people go through, how can you standup and make changes. Create different spheres of friendship groups. Question the composition of your company. Is there lack of diversity in the people who hold positions of power? What about new hires – how many diverse graduates has your company employed? What recruitment agencies are being used – the ones that get you the same non diverse shortlists? Hold your company accountable.

Remember – its not too late.

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