Age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation are all legally protected characteristics, under the Equality Act 2010.
2 in 5 BME reported experiencing racism at work
27% experienced racist jokes as ‘banter’
21% had experienced bullying or harassment
21% had racist remarks directed at them or made in their presence
Racism is part of the fabric of British society, its deep institutionalisation means that for centuries it's been operating at varying degrees and levels, some more covert than others.
Below are 3 ways you can be a better ally, both to Black people and other marginalised groups.
“Allyship signals the intention to support and sponsor other people’s experiences, and to make it clear that we stand with them.”
As an ally it is really important to understand when your voice is needed and when you need to make space for Black people to be heard. The aim is to amplify voices before your own.
Hearing or seeing something which you feel uncomfortable with, is usually a good time to speak up.
Sometimes the best option may be to speak up there and then and question whether the comments made are a representation of the company, others may prefer for this conversation to be had in private.
If addressing an issue there and then, it’s important to say it from the perspective of why that comment or behaviour has made you feel uncomfortable, and not speak on the marginalised person’s behalf.
Not every Black person’s experience is the same, it’s important to listen and not make any assumptions.
One thing which may impact a Black person’s experience is intersectionality. Intersectionality describes the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects.
Owning your privilege makes it easier to acknowledge the difference in other people’s experiences. But it's important to listen without centering you and your feelings, as it’s the lack of understanding that usually stops people speaking up.
It is your responsibility to bring a level of understanding to the table when it comes to conversations around race. It is unfair for p[eople to show up, try to be authentic, do the work and to educate others on top of that. If you want to be a true ally, do your research. Goodman and Masson, have put together a great booklet of resources, from books, to podcasts, to Films and TV series!
Leaders must be clear about the universal expectations of inclusive behaviour and the consequences for excluding behaviours. It is also good to have this in company policy, clearly defining what is inclusive or exclusive. It’s also important to deal with any issues safely and immediately as this is vital to looking after the wellbeing of staff.
Being an ally isn’t easy and it's okay to be learning along the way. But remember being an ally is not about looking good or making yourself feel better, effective allyship should focus on systematic change, sponsorship and sustained action.