As a child of the 1980s I have tried (unsuccessfully) to explain to my children that not so long ago if you wanted to change the TV channel you had to physically get off the sofa, walk over to the telly box and push a button (or carefully turn a dial to a precise position like a dodgy toaster). That we had the grand choice of 4 different channels, children’s TV was limited to specific times of day and if you missed something that was it – no catch up, no rewind and certainly no ability to instantly access every episode ever of your latest favourite show.
The invention of the remote control, hoofer doofer, TV wand or whatever name the might power stick has been given in your household was a revelation. The possessor of this mighty tool would reign supreme on the viewing habits of others. This week I have also realised, like the one ring of Sauron, it has the power to corrupt.
The growth of all of these viewing options has made it far too easy to escape the news and more importantly flick the channel over when something discomforting comes into view. I caught myself in a mindless act of doing just that this week. As the story of the Croydon Council housing scandal was playing out in front of me on a large screen in (not so glorious that day) high definition. I was shocked, horrified and disturbed to the point that I found myself absent mindedly reaching for the remote to turn to something more uplifting. Maybe this was a sign that my resilience was low. The sight of a mother and her two young children firstly having to live in outrageous conditions with black mould on the walls and condensation saturating the floors and then being shunted into a budget hotel with one room, no cooking facilities and no fridge left me numb.
What concerned me more was that my first reaction was to try and find something more uplifting, lighthearted or spirit raising to watch instead. Thankfully, I caught myself in the act, put down the remote and watched the report till the end. But then I flicked off the TV and sat in quiet contemplation what I had seen had made me angry. It also left me frustrated. What could I actually do to help address this type of situation that I know is clearly not a one off.
This inequality is all around us. I need to learn more to be able to do more. Would welcome any reflections from any readers on the blog of what I can do in relation to any of this. My reflection this week is that inequality is all around us and it is easy, especially as our resilience dips to want to pull down the blinkers and gently mutter to ourselves as we stride past “nothing to see here”. I don’t want to become immune to harrowing news or be willing to blank it out. I’ve got a couple of weeks off over Easter – it’s time for a recharge… #ICantBeTired
Wilfrid Zaha has had enough. I don’t blame him. He has suffered years of constant abuse both online and from the terraces. Last weekend before Crystal Palace’s match against West Brom he became the the first Premier League player not to take the knee. His hope is that his actions will highlight that more needs to be done to fight racism, stating that he “will continue to stand tall”.
When football resumed last summer and players, officials and backroom teams started taking a knee before kick off I wondered where the actions and gestures would lead. Would things start to change or was this going to end up the sporting equivalent of Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner taking the knee in an empty parliamentary meeting room. Empty is an important word here, Zaha’s stance is asking a fair and reasonable question, are the promises leading to action or are they as empty the stadia that matches are currently taking place in?
However, what I really want to write about today is the reaction. The debate in many areas is inexplicably focussing on whether Zaha is right to stand. No I’m sorry that is so misplaced and an indicator of the bigger issue. The debate should be centred on the fact that we have a Black footballer that feels so let down by the lack of progress, hollow gestures and absence of meaningful change or action. The key question should be “we are failing, we must do more, how do we stand up and make a difference”.
A colleague of mine shared a great talk by Ibram X Kendi this week on the difference between being “not racist” and antiracist. We are both big fans of his perspective “that racist is NOT an identity, rather it’s a description of your behaviour in the moment” meaning you can exhibit racist behaviour one minute and be antiracist the next. It has a chunky run time (50mins) but I’d encourage you to carve out the time to have a listen, especially useful for any allies that are reading.
I’d also encourage you to sign up to and join a free live event being hosted by Green Park next week. The event has a great panel of speakers holding an important conversation ‘Let’s not go back to normal’. The line up is shared below and I hope you will be able to listen in to what promises to be an insightful session. This is my 20th post, #ImStillNotTired about campaigning for equity but, like Zaha, I am growing tired of endless discussion, empty promises and lack of change. It’s time for all of us to stand up and be counted…
There has been a lot of commentary and chatter recently about Unconscious Bias Training. Critique of its lack of effectiveness and concern regarding organisations, especially charities, spending significant amounts of cash on these interventions. The problem is the concern is misplaced and criticism misguided. In order to illustrate my point I am going to use coronavirus as an example.
If we imagine a lack of inclusive behaviours as the disease that is maligning our society. Unconscious Bias (UB) training is not a cure. It was never designed to eradicate, resolve or remove non inclusive or discriminatory behaviour. No, UB interventions are a test to identify whether you have the potential to be prejudice. It is also in some ways a pointless test as we will all test positive. It is impossible not to have unconscious bias and that is because of how our brains are wired. If you are interested in reading a bit more about how UB works then I highly recommend Blindspot by Banaji & Greenwald. The book provides a number of links to the free online Harvard Implicit Association Tests. However, the simplest and most accessible exercise to understand your mind requires only a shuffled deck of cards, a friend and a stopwatch.
The role for your partner is to time your speed for this task so you have a comparison afterwards. OK, hold the deck face up and sort the cards as quickly as you can into Hearts & Diamonds / Spades & Clubs. Right now give them a good shuffle and repeat the sorting this time placing the cards in piles of Hearts & Clubs / Spades & Diamonds. Look at the difference between your times, perhaps even repeat the exercise, and have a think about what your results are telling you…
The key point of this weeks’ post is to highlight that rather than picking on a diagnostic tool that is primarily designed to illustrate how bias forms, the bigger question is investment in the more challenging work of tackling cultural norms, building empathy and creating environments, processes and policies that prioritise equity and build higher levels of inclusion and belonging. There is no shortcut to positive inclusive outcomes and investing all of your time effort and energy into UB and expecting it to transform your organisation is the equivalent of having a test for COVID and believing you’ve been vaccinated, twice!
So if you would like to take some implicit tests or embark on some UB training I’d encourage you to do so as it is eye opening. But, what is most important is that you see it as the start of your work rather than an end in itself. Building and honing your inclusion muscles is a constant process. There is no finish line but it can be a wonderful never ending journey of self discovery and learning. You won’t always get things right and this feels like an appropriate moment to remind you of the poem I first shared with you in one of my earlier blog posts ‘Comfort Zone‘. ‘Autobiography in Five Short Chapters’ by Portia Nelson from the wonderfully titled “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery” is a useful reminder to be gentle with yourself on the road to being more inclusive. Unconscious Bias training may well be your first step but if you are serious about this, it will definitely not be your last… #ImNotTired
Back at the end of 2010 I was in the youth work sector. The YWCA decided to change it’s name pre-empting the findings of the 2011 census and the fact that 51% of the population were women. Though the name change never took off, they changed again a few years later to the Young Women’s Trust, the story always stuck with me. One of the main reasons it captured my heart and my mind is that I thought the name change was inspired. At the time, 51% of the UK population were women and yet we lived (and continue to live) in a very unequal society in terms of gender. Misogynistic tropes were common place, Gender Pay Gap reporting didn’t exist and the 30 Percent Club were just finding their feet. Yet far too many of us found it all too difficult to understand what was meant by Platform 51…
Several years later, I discovered the brilliant book ‘Invisible Women‘ by Caroline Criado Perez (if you haven’t read it, especially if you are male, you need to get a copy to become a better ally!). It really opened my eyes to how the world has been designed from a male perspective and the impacts that this has on the lives of women. As we approach International Women’s Day on Monday, I am keen to further my knowledge, appreciation and understanding of the gender gap. This goes beyond pay and extends into all facets of our lives from the treatment of Jackie Weaver to the greater impact of the pandemic on women. Regular visitors to the blog will know I like to read and next on my list is Joeli Brearley’s book Pregnant Then Screwed. She has recently been appearing frequently on many of my social media timelines and I found this blog post on political support for mother’s an unsettling read.
I’d like to round off today by talking about the Duchess of Sussex. I know that the CBS interview with Oprah that is due to be televised this weekend will surely contain some intriguing revelations. However, my reflections are more based on what I have observed of her experience in the UK following her engagement to Prince Harry. It has really brought home to me how heavily the cards are stacked against women of colour. Kimberlé Crenshaw first raised the concept of intersectionality referring to the interconnected nature of our overlapping identities such as race, disability and gender and how they may multiply the discrimination or disadvantage that an individual may face
Through my career, I have had the pleasure of working with inspiring and amazing women. My post this week is dedicated to your your brilliance, the positive impact you have had on my career and to commit to doing more to level the playing field and be a better ally. Please join the conversation below and share with us a woman that has inspired / continues to inspire you and why. I’m hoping that together we can build a tribute to phenomenal and inspirational women as we head towards International Women’s Day #ImNotTired