Let’s talk about Race!

Deborah Gordon, Head of Learning & Development at Advance Housing and Support

‘When Advance Chief Executive, Julie Layton asked me if I would write this article, I agreed to share some of my thoughts. This followed a conversation I had with her regarding the aftermath of the England vs. Italy football match on Sunday and what message was Advance going to communicate. As I thought about what I would write I try and remind myself that Racism is Everybody’s business or is it?

This past year has been very challenging for all in many different ways. Speaking personally on Race & Racism has been one of the things that has pulled on my heart strings with a number of key events namely the murder of George Floyd, the publishing of the Race Report and lastly the Racism displayed during and after the Euro Football finals on Sunday to name a few.

We live in a society where there is systemic racism, structural racism despite the governments recent Report on Race & Ethnic disparities - see link attached https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-report-of-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities This report received a lot of backlash from a wide range of communities when it was published. I sometimes wonder how people see things and their ‘perception’- ‘ manner of seeing things, a thought, belief, or opinion’ comes to mind.

This week sees the Runnymead’s Report published on England Civil Society Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I have yet to read this report, but it is in response to the Government's examining the situation of race and racism in England. It has been drafted by the Runnymede Trust, following consultation with over 150 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to promote race equality and human rights. They received over 50 written submissions from institutions, CSO’s, academics and other individuals in response to the call for evidence for this report. 

Black people have felt the brunt of racism for generations, and although it can be difficult painful to explain, talk about dependent on your experiences, the responsibility should not be on the shoulders of black people to resolve. Unless there are conscious joint unified action things will remain the same. I am always saying that racism isn’t going to be eradicated in my lifetime because as soon as you take 2 steps forward it sometimes feels like you are taking 10 steps backwards. But having said that positive action needs to continue to make the change whether large or small.

It makes me sad that the conversations parents are having to have with their child/ren about racism include, what to do if stopped by the police, what to do if being bullied, what to do if you face discrimination, what to do in educational environments, what to do if going shopping, what to do when walking down the road, what to do to survive. The list is endless. Some young black youth are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and are still expected to perform. Listen to Dilys who was outranged when her daughter contacted her on her way to school to say that she needed to get a cab because she didn’t feel safe  https://www.facebook.com/dilys.sillah/videos/4018603258208758/?d=n

I started at Advance on 1st March 2021, and have embraced the PRIDE Values that are in place. I do think more conversations around race and diversity need to be had across the organisation to help instill confidence around the subject matter. For me I did not see another black person until 5 weeks in post albeit virtually. This is very unusual in the 21st Century.

The abuse witnessed on Sunday, before Sunday and to date is appalling and it makes you wonder what sorts of conversation are happening within the workplace, with families and friends. I have seen several reports screened from different countries where Britain is not seen as ‘Great’ again. I think the colonial mentality still exists and will take generations to eradicate unless the educational system has a complete overhaul. A posting on social media claiming that Nxxxxxx had lost Britain the Euros and Monday was a punishment day where you scored points dependent on the activity you did from spitting to lynching. People in the Black community were being advised to stay at home. What can I say? This is outrageous. Your colleagues may have received this message, carried on as usual but experiencing turmoil inside.

My heart goes out to the Footballers, and a strong message of unity was played out today where the England Football Team refused to go to a reception with the Prime Minister. Small steps hopefully a big impact. Watch this space.

Have a listen to John Barnes being interviewed by James Max about what happened on Sunday. I agree with John in that the problem is much wider than football. It is the system, society & culture that needs to change and the root caused tackled head on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQqL2Cp8VJ0

As a reminder to all colleagues, we do not know what individuals are experiencing inside or outside work and the impacts that current events are having on them. It is important that we look after each other, challenge practice, language etc where required, and make a difference where we can. I am aware that racist behaviour has become more overt since the Brexit vote and leaving the European Union, but the future of our country lies in our hands. It is up to us what personal responsibility we take or chose not to take! 

The Advance Equality Diversity & Inclusion Group wants to help raise standards, support policy and practice at Advance for both Employees and our Customers. 

Recommended reading:

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu This Is Why I Resist: Don't Define My Black Identity

Reni Eddo-Lodge Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race


Deborah Gordon, Head of Learning and Development