Speaking about race
In our service, we recently enabled uncomfortable conversations about race and everyone talked very powerfully about their experience of racism or of privilege. What came out for myself was not having understood enough the invisible experiences that people of colour have that white people like me wouldn’t even realise are taking place, let alone experience. I also felt like I didn’t know people in my team as much as I should and needed to support more conversations which helped people be open and vulnerable in a safe way. What also came out was a desire by everyone to want to change their behaviour, so that they could show more solidarity.
I also I took part in a session hosted by Nour Sidawi on unpacking the invisible. Some of these privileges I am conscious about like not being discriminated against if I’m looking for a job, university or home, or even in the street. I hadn’t realised the impact of children growing up not seeing their race represented in stories, history or films, or of being able to find a hairdresser that can work with my hair, or a plaster that looks like the colour of my skin. I hadn’t realised that if I wear second hand clothes, people won’t attribute these choices to negative stereotypes about my race. I hadn’t realised how hurtful it can be to be asked to speak on behalf of my race, or how isolating it is to be outnumbered by people of other races. What was also powerful is thinking about the things we all have in common, like campaigning against injustice or living in areas where there are people from different cultures.
I know that I can’t change my white privilege, I’ve been born into it and it has shaped the society I live in. The system isn’t broken when it comes to tackling racism, on the contrary, the system works very well for people like me who are white. If people are shocked when people say that our society is systemically racist, it’s not that everyone who lives in it is racist, it’s that the systems of power that underpin it have been designed to embed white privilege.
I don’t want to blog about how open I am to people from other cultures or how I’m tackling racism. I do want to write about what I need to do more of
- Putting myself in other people’s shoes and creating safe spaces for them to share their experiences and to take part in sharing mine
- Create spaces where people can hold me to account and challenge me as a head of service of my unconscious or conscious biases
- Create ways to enable more people to have a voice, while equally not assuming that everyone from an underrepresented group feels oppressed
Below are lists where you can find out more about how to become a better ally:
Guide to Allyship
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Books, films and documentaries that will help you learn about anti-racism
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