To coincide with Black History Month, Corrinne Bailey has written about her personal experience of being a black female in 2020.
It’s that time of the year where being black is celebrated by all. However this year it’s front and centre as the senseless killing of George Floyd in America reminded me in the most powerful way that the battle is not over.
This tragedy ignited an incandescent social movement across the globe. Organisations suddenly felt an uncomfortable spotlight glare as they made every effort to both empathise with their black workforce and refresh diversity plans with real commitment.
A double threat (industry phrase not literally) as a black female professional this has been a particularly unsettling period for me.
Social media has become both a comforting and informative tool as well as a depressing reminder with the added sprinklings of COVID limiting interactions, which is for many of us the coping mechanism.
I dreaded the anticipated ‘black token’ efforts and tried to ‘remain corporate’. This was simply not sustainable with the constant and increasing movement of Black Lives Matter (BLM). What many of my colleagues did not appreciate is that these recent events were simply adding to the existing snowball of feeling how most black people feel. This is yet another reminder of the injustices that we live and feel every … single … day. It's not just a hashtag or fashion trend you can pick up and drop as I cannot change who I am...a black female. This is what I am seen as first, not a professional employee that can get the job done.
So, I had to have ‘that conversation’ with my new boss. We both sighed with relief as thoughts and opinions were respected and valued. Did this fix everything? No, but all change must start with a conversation and more importantly a commitment to recognising cultural differences. The Ministry of Justice has always been a leader across government in our approach to creating and celebrating diversity. It's about the willingness to face the difficult discussion with honesty and transparency.
My ask is simple:
- be mindful of our emotional wellbeing as we are indirectly expected to be the spokesperson for all things ‘black’
- educate yourself as we navigate through these overwhelming emotions very publicly in real time
- talk to those in your sphere of influence (work colleagues, friends, family) about racism, and call it out when you see it happening
It is no longer acceptable to stay silent. You must have a view and a voice and use it to influence positive change. We welcome the discussion and support, let the conversation continue. Please remember that for us it is constantly on our agenda not just in October.