Racism and Allyship
Set against the backdrop of 2020’s major world events (Covid and Black Lives Matter), many of us have looked within ourselves to find a way in which we can make a difference. Companies have needed to address systemic issues that have been exposed such as the disproportionate impact of Covid on Black and Asian staff, and women with caring responsibilities and the best have taken swift and sensitive action. Individuals have also wanted to take action such as contributing more to local communities. With a powerful focus on anti-racism and structural inequalities, there are also two major concepts that have emerged which we can take individual responsibility for also: privilege and allyship.
These two concepts go hand-in-hand. You can’t be a meaningful ally without first understanding your own privilege and we think John Amaechi’s analysis is spot on. We don’t have to feel guilty for having privilege, we just need to use it to good effect in tackling discrimination that others are facing. An ally is just that: someone proactively using their privileged position to help level the playing field for others. For helpful definitions of allyship, the NHS has some great resources and these 10 steps from Dr Muna Abdi are great to keep in mind.
As Dr Muna Abdi says, in order to ‘show up and stand up’ as an ally, you do need to be informed. This recent podcast interview by Louis Theroux with actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel has a wealth of insight into being a Black Britain today.
Bear in mind that being an ally is about more than understanding and empathy. It’s about taking action and often that will mean raising uncomfortable truths. If you’re a member of a dominant group in your workplace (once you’ve checked your privilege you’ll know if that’s you) then take pride in standing up for people in different racial groups, champion them, perhaps mentor them and certainly be proactive in challenging anyone who does not treat them equally.
And remember that as an ally, your actions don’t have to be limited to grand ones. Our blog on racial microaggressions will be a useful tool to help you think about making small changes to your own behaviour. And if you’re a leader then all of the above applies, plus it’s time to start proactively developing inclusive leadership traits. Because if not now, when?