Systemic Transformation + Personal Transformation = Progress
By Deirdre Golden
It is one year and one week since George Floyd was murdered by a racist police officer. The intervening period has seen large scale protest around the world and a long overdue awakening of white people to the injustices that people of colour are subject to. This has resulted in soul searching around the legacy of colonialism and slavery, and efforts by institutional bodies and other organisations to confront their own deficiencies that often result in an imbalance in power and privilege in relation to people from different ethnic groups.
However, progress is being made by organisations to take a more layered approach to race and ethnicity than previously, and seek to understand different life experiences. Whilst there may be some commonalities amongst different groups: White; Black; Asian etc, research and lived experience shows that there are marked differences within those broad based categories. Across all sectors, education, employment, health etc, Black Africans can have a different outcome to Black Caribbean’s; Indians have a different outcome to Pakistanis; White British have a different outcome to white Travellers or Eastern European people.
Layering on top of these inherent characteristics are other integral characteristics such as gender, age, disability, sexuality, religious affiliation, social background etc that impact an individual’s life chances. Understanding the intersection of these diverse characteristics is critical to ensuring the needs of all employees are met.
In the UK there has been much focus on progressing the structural and systemic changes (of the law and at public policy level) to remove bias and improve outcomes for people of colour. US and UK organisations are working hard to remove bias from policies, practices and systems that similarly act as barriers, but despite this, there is also a growing and critical body of opinion against D&I training such as unconscious bias.
Progress in wider Europe remains inconsistent. A recent article in the New York Times highlighted concerns from some French politicians and prominent intellectuals that “. Social theories from the US on race, gender and post-colonialism are a threat to French identity and the French republic”.
What all of this tells us is that it is vital to maintain velocity on D&I but also most importantly, that unless there is personal transformation at the same time as system and process transformation, progress will remain slow.
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