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Beyond the status quo Anti-Racism demands a change in culture now

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

The last few days have taken me back to May 2020, the inescapable media presence featuring images of the brutal murder of a Black man, at the hands of the police, an institution that is there to protect and serve.

Like then, I have detoxed from the news to save my weathered heart from more confirmation that the pace of change is far too slow.

Racism’s simplicity, and its complexity is at the forefront of my mind - along with the conversations I will have, overhear, and eventually avoid - discussing the insidious, confusing, traumatic, and harmful forms that racism takes.

No, it’s not just being called the P word in the school yard, or being let go from my first job at 16 because of my skin colour, it’s deeper, and ever more complex and dangerous.

The murder of Tyre Nichols is devastating on so many levels, it is a reminder that we have so far to go in our understanding, and our acts of resistance from cultures that allow these types of tragedies to occur in our lifetimes.

The murder of Tyre Nichols has been described by global media company Forbes as a result of both institutional racism and cultural racism. Cultural racism is something that is less spoken about in the UK, yet it is widespread across academia, healthcare and our own criminal justice system - it demands a direct call for action in organisations where this form of racism persists.

What is Cultural Racism?

Cultural racism is a term more widely used in the U.S. yet we can recognise it as a subtle form of racism that is deeply ingrained in society and often goes unnoticed.

It refers to the belief that certain cultures are superior to others, and it can lead to discriminatory practices and attitudes. Cultural racism can rear its head in many different ways, including prejudice against people based on their ethnicity, language, religion, or national origin.

One form of cultural racism is the stereotype that people from certain ethnic or cultural backgrounds are predisposed to certain characteristics or behaviors. For example, the belief that people from African or Middle Eastern countries are more prone to violence and terrorism is a dangerous stereotype that can lead to discrimination, prejudice and brutality of innocent people.

If newly inducted workers join an organisation where Black people are not valued, respected or heard, over time this cultural norm is adopted. The culture prevails and whether intentionally or not, the impact is more discrimination and trauma for Black people.

While we may debate about the other forms of racism at play here, and the different terminology we may use - what is clear is that if our workplace cultures in our major institutions are culturally racist, it is hard to escape from this.

In the case of Tyre Nichols' murder, the Memphis police have taken swift action to permanently disband the so called Scorpion Unit (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods) whose officers committed the crime.

It is a positive step in the midst of disgrace, however if the wider institution could create such a unit, it is clear that there is a need for a cultural overhaul, matching the size of the problem with the scale of the solution.

Join me at the US UK Summit this Friday

I have been invited to speak at the Voices of Youth and Wisdom In A Divided America on Friday 3 Feb 4PM GMT.

Invite a Friend or Colleague to this two-hour event. It will be worth every minute as you hear from subject-matter experts on issues impacting the Black community and beyond.

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