I’ve been thinking about the journey that we have made over the last two years. Someone died (again). We were all shocked (again). We invested in understanding more about the impact of racism on our society (again). We then say that we are doing too much on race (again) and move away from the race equality agenda (again). This is a familiar cycle, one which many of us have experienced several times. Each time we are left a little more jaded and a little less convinced that we will ever address the racism that we so routinely experience. Part of the reason for this cycle is a rejection of the idea that we live in a racist society – despite all of the evidence. Each time there is an incident, we go down the road of having to prove (again) that racism permeates our society. It’s like we get so far down the road, and we are pulled back to the starting line. Instead of trying to get to somewhere useful, much of our energy is spent in trying to sabotage the journey – to convince ourselves and others that there is absolutely no need to address racism and that those who wish to do do are engaged in self-interest or ‘wokery’.
The consequence of this destructive and repetitive pattern of behaviour is that our understanding of racism and what we do about it is seriously under-developed. We know this not only because of the shock of our responses when we see or experience racist behaviours, but because so many of us don’t recognise racism, nor understand what to do about it. Our naivety is dangerous. It enables the continuation of a society which, despite our diversity, maintains the hereditary consequences of stratification by class, gender, and of course race. Because we continue to shy away from the reality of these experiences, we can’t imagine different ways to connect, collaborate, design and deliver. We are stuck fixing an existing system which ameliorates the experiences of racism and rewards the one of two faces of colour who escape societal expectations.
Now is the time when we are experiencing that fork in the road. There is a choice to go beyond the brick wall and continue our journey – or to turn back to the starting block, forgetting all we have learnt and what we have experienced. So, instead of looking back at what you have done over the last two years – whether it be training (again), consultation (again), investing in positive action (again) – and seeing this as sufficient progress, imagine what you can achieve if you were to push on a little more. What it would feel like to be competent in your leadership of your whole workforce. What it would be like to achieve inclusive outcomes because people understood more about their own behaviours and felt they could challenge poor ones. What it would be like if services produced more equitable outcomes.
This could all be possible, but not if we get seduced again by the mantra that we have done enough. And not if we believe that anti-racism is a myth that can’t be accomplished or even worse an aspiration that is not desired.
It would be wonderful not to go through this cycle (again).