Updated: Jul 12, 2021
By Mandeep Gill (EMBA 2020)
I appreciate my writings may not strike a chord with everyone and may make some uncomfortable, but it's shaped by my experience as a person of colour in the UK. In the last year I have been called Citizen Khan at work and listened in on a meeting where jokes and humour were used when pronouncing African names. My matriculation consisted of signing a commitment to not take down any statues. But this is not about me or my experience, it is about us and the magnitude of the journey we have a head of us.
Over the past year although the world stood in shock over George’s murder, it has continued to be generous in showing us how the evils in society continue to operate George’s death has not prevented or reduced the discrimination and oppression ethnic minorities are experiencing globally. We have seen continued violence against black lives, especially from those in public roles and in positions of trust. We have also seen a rise in hate towards Asians and ethnic minority transgender individiduals. Here we will reflect on the events of the last year, with the view to asking ourselves, have things really moved on? Before we take this journey together, I would like to offer some words for George and although I never knew him, my empathic disposition means I’m connected to him in life:
We remember you my brother and we will never forget you,
We will never forget the gift your pain has given to mankind,
We will never stop questioning, why did they use an illegal manoeuvre? And why did they hold you there for so long, whilst passersby watched on? Why did brothers and sisters watch and record, yet not feel empowered enough to help you? Why and how do people watch the whole stream on YouTube? Why are most of those viewers still silent?
Why are people/they trying to denounce you?
Why can they not see any wrongs/trespasses are closely connected to being the product of oppression and discrimination?
It’s not for me to ever say that you should not have died that day, for there is a greater being that can only make that decision, but what I can say is that you should have never had to go that way my brother. As we become accustomed to adversity, we have to reframe this atrocity as a gift of pain (our coping strategy), to enable us to heal and see the opportunity this offers to mankind We thank you for the gift and we are sorry for you pain. Thank you for being the symbol and strength that binds us.
Thank you for helping us to find our voices. Thank you for helping us instil belief in those key messages we tell our brothers, sisters and children.
For me you are up there with the greats! It took you brother to change a nation
There is certainly more publicity and awareness of the issues surrounding racism now, which can be seen in the creation of networks, the actions of organisations, the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. With organisations keen to appoint individuals to support and uphold their organisations in areas of equality. However, now that there are a record number of employees undergoing some level of training in this area, we have to ask ourselves whether training on unconscious bias and watching a video of white fragility has made the moves that are needed or contrarily provided people with an armour and defence, especially optical allies.
Workforce Racial Equality Statistics has now taken on a new a form in organisations and received a newfound appreciation, as it is no longer meaningless data that is reported. Organisations are now under pressure to use the data to address issues in the place of work. There is an increase in accountability and organisations are being pushed to publicise their data and leaders want to be proud of, and showcase their results.
People may be more willing to talk about issues that relate to race and feel empowered to challenge the frayed fabric of society at all levels. We have seen the physical world around us change in small and big ways, in ways that we would not have even noticed, expected or previously even imagined. Statues have been taken down, street and building names have been changed, programmes taken off streaming platforms and companies are explicitly committing in solidarity with black lives matter. Organisations have had to re-evaluate their recruitment strategies and talent, whilst appreciating the benefits of a diverse workforce. Protests at times of lockdown and Blackout Tuesdays have evidenced the commitment and will of nations. Educators have realised their critical role in shaping the children of our future.
It is striking that during this racial reckoning, the coverage and response to wars has fettered public condemnation by our political leaders. The crimes against Palestinians and the under-reporting of crimes against countries, highlights the political complex dimension that surrounds this issue. Closer to home, a fight for equality was branded by one of our very own Priti Patel, as “thugs and bullies”.
More recently, the Sewell report illustrated how far issues of race can be reduced and simplified, gaslighting the ethnic minority experiences across the UK. The 258 page report is certainly worth a read and begs the question whether the Commission really set out to find the truth? What Halima Begum, a british anti-racism activist, has referred to as “white-wash report”, demonstrates a lack of depth in understanding of the issues experienced by ethnic minorities and hones in on dispelling any myths about institutional racism. How do they then account for the over representation of black lives in mental health institutions, criminal justice system, inequity in accessing health care resulting in poor outcomes, unfair access to opportunities through education and employment?
Reflecting on these recently commissioned reports by the government, one has to question whether things have really moved on twenty years after the MacPherson report? Although the media are happy to include the issues surrounding the Stephen Lawrence case, are the public able to separate fact from fiction and is it challenging their thoughts in the way it should do? At the same time, 67 years ago segregation in schools became unconstitutional in the USA. Has that really enabled equality and equity in education? We have seen those who were responsible for George’s death being brought to justice, but we cannot forget that a conviction and retribution will not allow George’s family ever to feel true justice has been served, for the value of his life was precious and unquantifiable to them.
CJBS has been keen to address challenges in this area and created a comprehensive, but not yet exhaustive, plan which is yet to have the desired impact. To gain the traction and desired impact it needs an implementation strategy with governance and accountability, which can only be achieved if it is wrapped up with and supported by the commitment of the Cambridge ecosystem. We remain hopeful with the appointment for the Dean of CJBS, his willingness and commitment to start those discussions, so early on in his tenure.
Lets stop talking and move towards our call to action. Through our lens, we need to tackle these issues on three fronts: the Personal, Cultural and Structural (Thompson, 2006). Review policies, membership and representation, whilst challenging approaches and funding in Policing, access to healthcare, education and housing to target the Structural. Promote transparency, accountability, governance, allyship, safe spaces, psychological safety, safe spaces and appropriate terminology to promote a better working Culture. Make one to ones, supervisions and appraisals meaningful by encouraging (Personal) self-awareness and critical reflection that can only enhance service delivery and working conditions. Demonstrating a commitment and strength in these areas can allow creativity and innovation to flourish.
It is appreciated that the rebalance of power was never going to be easy and yes, it is going to feel uncomfortable, especially, for those who perceive that they have benefited from a racist system and who continue to hold the power. Maintain a healthy curiosity and move away from wilful blindness, see through the illusions, reimagine, “have a dream” and act to make that dream a reality and the world a safer and better one for our children.
“Daddy changed the world” (Gianna Floyd)
Love and light