Having spoken to a wide range of business leaders, the refrain I hear is almost exactly the same. We’re witnessing a chorus of well-meaning social media campaigns, usually created by overwhelmingly white teams, proclaiming support with catchy straplines and emotive imagery.
It’s a pledge to ‘improve diversity and inclusion’, legislation that has systematically destroyed any real focus on the institutional racism suffered by black people by lumping us into a BAME box, from which our voices are never heard among the throngs of other, lighter or whiter voices.
It is the pledge to have even more Black History Month events this year, with no intention of ensuring that your mainstream workforce attend at least one event in order to further their own learning.
My advice to business leaders seeking to make real change is to remember your humanity and suspend your disbelief. Otherwise you risk negating the lived experience – and subsequently the trust – of your black employees. Just because you have not experienced something doesn’t mean that it does not exist.
The most important thing that any leader can do right now is really, really listen.
And you can also reflect on the fact that the reason you may not recognise your privilege, your fragility, your negative biases or your racist beliefs is because the system was rigged way before you were born. So, you might just find, once you educate yourself more, that you’re a little bit racist too.
But don’t beat yourself up too much. Remember that it is the structure within which we all operate that is racist – so work towards becoming anti-racist yourself. Because being legally compliant and woke in your head is not enough.
The magnificent BLM movement has created a groundswell of shared lived experience of black lives around the world. Now is the time for real leaders to take the initiative and quite simply, do better.
Nyasha Pitt is a leading communications expert and recognised diversity and inclusion (D&I) professional, specialising in women’s equality, race and LGBT+. Alongside her role as founder of agency Living Content, Nyasha is chair of Coventry Pride’s board of trustees, vice-chair of Warwick Students’ Union, and an accredited neuro-linguistic programming practitioner.
To support black communities, see our collection of resources to read, reflect, open up discussions and enact positive change as we work together for an anti-racist future in all societies.
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