Imagine what it’s like to always be conscious of the colour of your skin. To feel nervous that when you go to that job interview, they’ll see you’re black and may not want to hire you for the job. To have constant comments made about your hair; ‘big’, ‘fluffy’, ‘not appropriate’, to be followed around the supermarket by the security guard or be referred to as the ‘other one’ comparing you to a black colleague.

I’ve had every one of those experiences and more and some are daily occurrences.

The events in America have brought to the fore the scale of the prejudice and discrimination that people of colour experience. I’m highlighting that this is not something happening just at this moment, in one area of the world. It’s something black and minority ethnic people deal with all the time. It's demoralising and exhausting.

So, I’ll be honest. This is my second attempt at writing this blog. My first was the usual rhetoric of championing equality, increasing diversity, particularly at Creative Youth Network, all key points and it was OK, but the result was really the organisational party line. I reflected that even in writing a blog about my personal experience of a being a person of colour against the backdrop of events in America, that I was doing it under the white gaze. I was writing something that my white superiors would find acceptable, palatable, and from the beginning had tempered and adjusted my words so that I didn't make white people feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t right.

So, let’s be uncomfortable.

There is no denying that the organisation I work for is very white. I have been with Creative Youth Network for eight years – it’s a long time! (I’ve stayed so long because I think the services we deliver with and for young people are of huge value and I enjoy my job).

However, I’m the only female person of colour at my level, all my line managers have been white males and there are no black senior managers. CYN’s staff teams don’t reflect the young people we work with or the communities we serve and its high turnover of BAME staff suggests the organisation is not offering enough prospects or support. This is a shameful state-of-affairs for a large youth charity working across a multicultural city.

It’s not my intention to be down on CYN but simply to illustrate that even those with missions to be supportive and inclusive struggle to get this right.

What I am encouraged by is that Creative Youth Network is taking real action to do something about it. We have a diversity and inclusion team with a specific action to recruit and retain BAME employees and have recently set up a BAME staff forum so we can lead the changes that need to happen. It is just the beginning but there is an enthusiasm to change systematic discriminatory behaviours.

Everybody needs to do their bit.

I hope you stand in solidarity with BAME communities. Take the onus on yourself to challenge racism whenever you see it. Call it out. Educate yourself and others. Do whatever you can to rid the world of racial discrimination. Overall champion diversity and promote equality (some things just need repeating) because black lives matter.

Thanks for reading.

 

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