What have we learned this Black History Month?
It has been a tale of many twists and turns in the UK this October.
Amidst the cost-of-living crisis, a change of monarch and (another) change in leadership of the country, we are certainly living in times that will go down in the history books as being some of the most turbulent and challenging in generations.
I love October, aside from it being a time of season change, where we see the leaves change colour and drop from the branches overhead, it’s also become a time of national reflection on our shared history as it relates to the Black population.
When I was at school, I clearly remember learning about Tudors and Stewarts, King Henry the VIII and his wives, and poets such as Philip Larkin.
However, when I think about what I learned about Black History, sadly there was a severe lack of content, which reflecting now I find both harmful and insulting.
I remember occasions when I catapulted my thirst for Black cultural visibility onto teachers and classmates, such as the time I brought Nigerian attire in as a show and tell or rewrote Shakespeare in the form of a Rastafari poem.
Most memorable was when our English teacher openly criticised the casting of a play we went to watch due to there being a Black actor playing a lead role, who ‘should have been white’. The level of conversation on the topic of race and history was miniscule which is ironic given the importance of Black history on my identity and understanding of the world as the years passed by.
This October, I wanted to organise a talk that was close to my heart, featuring a Black Liverpool based Historian and EDI expert to share their views on how the past influences present day inequalities for Black people, and why it’s important to become enlightened about the large gaps in our national knowledge and understanding of our shared history as it relates to the Black community.
The Inclusion Exchange Video Podcast featured Andrew Lynch and Natalie Denny discussing the elements of Black History we should all know that many people don’t.
They also discussed how to make progress; we need to look ‘racism in the face’ in order to challenge it, and improve experiences and outcomes in education, health and criminal justice.
Recent evidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission illustrate the disproportionalities that exist in the UK:
Black Caribbean and Mixed White/Black Caribbean children have rates of permanent exclusion about three times that of the pupil population as a whole
Black workers with degrees earn 23.1 per cent less on average than White workers
Rates of prosecution and sentencing for Black people were three times higher than for White people,18 per thousand population compared with six per thousand population for White people
If you are an ethnic minority person, you are still more likely to live in poverty.
Black African women were seven times more likely to be detained under mental health legislation than White British women
Importantly, we asked Andrew what steps leaders in the workplace should be doing to honour the history of our country as it relates to Black people and promote equity between people of different backgrounds.
We loved Andrew’s insightful responses and share some of the highlights below:
1. Start by learning, and being humble
Ensure you speak to your staff, and in particularly, your black staff as well as staff from other racially minoritized groups. It’s important to acknowledge the different experiences between different ethnic groups. It is important to get to know the different types and levels of racism people face, and the complexity that is involved in the experiences of your staff.
2. Don’t expect racially minoritized staff to be experts in solving structural issues
Its important to acknowledge that people are expert in their own lived experience, but not experts in ‘fixing’ racism of inequalities that they face. Understand that they will not have all the answers and that it’s also important to involve community organisations to gain a broader understanding of the issues being faced,
3. Start taking informed action now, and don't be afraid to fail
Set targets, fail, be seen to fail if needed, it’s OK to fail on ambitious targets, but you must try – give your organisation the opportunity to succeed. Treat it like any other business priority, put people and resources on the EDI agenda, give people responsibility across the organisation and you will see progress.
Andrew discussed the Transatlantic Slave Trade, colonialism and the British Empire and how the legacy lives on in our workplaces and wider society today.
We have been overwhelmed by the responses from the session and look forward to sharing the full video with The Inclusion Exchange community shortly
Andrew was amazing, I gained so much insight to take back to my educational setting
Just really informative and pitched perfectly. I found it really insightful
Thank you for arranging this event. It is very important that allies get to hear the lived experience - so powerful and really appreciated.
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