I know this feels like a strange title but please bear with me. In the aftermath of the post European Championship final racism we have seen the power of active allyship. People have been reporting individuals to aid police investigations, there has been widespread condemnation for the bigoted views that have been shared, a petition to permanently ban racists from football matches has reached over 1 million signatures and a defaced mural of Marcus Rashford in Withington has not only been repaired but covered in messages of support.
Yesterday I was honoured to participate in a d&i leaders conversation about conscious inclusion with Chris MacRae and Anu Mandapati. In preparing for the session my mind was immediately drawn to how the nation has rallied in condemning the actions of the few who hurled abuse at Rashford, Sancho and Saka. This week’s blog is a blend of my notes from that session and reflections on what may be a watershed moment in the anti-racism movement in the UK.
- Words matter. Think about Inclusion (creating an environment that enables everyone to have access to resources and support) ahead of Diversity (the mix of people involved). Prioritise Equity (treating people differently to achieve an equality of outcome) rather than Equality (treating everyone the same). Using the England Team as an example we have a diverse team 8 of the 11 who started the final have a parent or grandparent who migrated to the UK but we have seen that they do not play in an inclusive environment.
- Actions matter. You have a choice when presented with discriminatory behaviour. Will you be a colluder joining in the actions or practice? Will you be a bystander standing by quietly while the abuse happens right in front of your eyes? Or will you be a challenger? Will you stand up for others? If you want to be a challenger but lack the confidence often the biggest hurdle is a fear of sparking confrontation. It is useful to have something pre prepared, maybe that you even practice in the mirror, so when you hear something that doesn’t sound right you can turn to that phrase to initiate a challenge. Your comment could be anything from “Sorry, but that’s out of order” to “What exactly do you mean by that?”. Remember it is not enough to think or believe I’m not racist, or homophobic, or ableist, or sexist. For starters it’s a flawed perception but principally if you are really serious about this you have to be actively anti.
- Invisible difference matters. Too often we focus on visible differences. The illustration below highlights how so much of our identity is invisible. Rashford is a case in point because while he is Black his major contribution over the past 12 months has been his exceptional lobbying on child poverty. He speaks eloquently and passionately from his own lived experience and has captured the attention, respect and support of a nation. However, if he had not been brave and open enough to share we would not know this about his background. It is important reminder that identity is broad, complex and often hidden.
4. Safe spaces matter. Sharing your lived experience, calling out discrimination and maintaining your dignity in the face of hostility are all significant drains on resilience. This level of emotional labour cannot be underestimated. It is therefore critical to create safe environments that enable under represented colleagues to share their experiences and speak truth to power. The optimum approach is to get these externally facilitated.
This feels like a moment. I was devastated when we lost the final. I was disgusted (but not surprised) by the fallout. But I have been energised by the public response, the support, the allyship and the conversations we are now starting to have. Tyrone Mings calling out the Home Secretary is my standout moment. Will this moment sprout wings and fly us to a new level? I don’t know but I am hopeful.