To end racial discrimination, we must start in the workplace

We enter 2022 at a particularly challenging time, with the spread of the Omicron variant and increased uncertainty about what the future will hold.

Many of us will have made New Year’s Resolutions this year. Some of us will take up new hobbies, others will endeavour to see friends or family more, or focus on a personal development goal.

 

A new year may well bring new challenges, but it will also bring an opportunity to learn from our past and build on our strengths. It is time for all allies to make a renewed commitment to building on racial equality.

For Black History Month last year, there was a significant difference to how the month how marked in the year before. October 2020 was fresh in the wake of the emergence of the video of the killing of George Floyd. Companies felt empowered and motivated to tackle racism and compelled to set out the change they would make in society to make it a reality.

Last year, commemorations were considerably more muted and restrained. Whilst to some it may feel like the urgency has gone, the reality is that the fight against racism is more important than ever.

The workplace is pivotal in the fight against racism. It is where most of us will spend over thirty hours a week, where our incomes are determined, and our professional prospects are shaped.

Discrimination based upon race has been outlawed in the U.K. since 1976. This includes direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation, and harassment. The Equality Act 2010 further codified this into law. In theory, racial discrimination is completely banned in the workplace. Yet the reality is often very different from this.

Research by The Equality and Human Rights Commission has showed that in Britain, significantly lower percentages of ethnic minorities (8.8%) worked as managers, directors and senior officials, compared with White people (10.7%).

They also found that unemployment rates are significantly higher amongst ethnic minorities, and that Black people who leave college with A Levels earn less than their White cpunterparts.

The 2020 update of progress from the Parker Review Committee into the ethnic diversity of UK boards showed frustratingly slow progress.

If we are to solve racism in society, it is clear that we must combat it in our workplaces. This is where allyship is so crucial.

Allyship is what you do, not what you believe. It is speaking up, standing up; it’s joining the fight and struggle to achieve equality for all.

Allyship leads from behind. It’s not making it all about you or looking for praise or credit for your work, especially from marginalised people, but listening to voices that too often

go unheard and seeking to uplift and amplify them and their messages.

As an ally, your job is to make change. To push past comfort and politeness and challenge the structures and norms that we’ve all grown up taking for granted, and be part of creating the society you want to live in.

Even when it’s difficult.

Especially when it’s difficult.

Taking the first step to allyship can be intimidating. We can feel frozen in place by the fear of getting it wrong or the sheer size of the task ahead of us.

The systems of oppression were not made by us, and they cannot be dismantled by us alone.

As we enter the new year and many of us are pledging to make a change, I would call upon our allies to step up and this year make the pledge to us to have 2022 be the year that they proactively fight for racial equality in their workplace.

Whether this be in workplace charters, proactive recruitment, reporting ethnicity pay gaps or in a myriad of other ways. This must be a team effort. For us to succeed – there must be allies.

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