The I and the System

It’s been a big week (again) in the world of anti-racism here in the UK. After the England male football team’s last minute defeat in the Euro final, three Black players received a torrent of racist abuse.

In actual fact, these players receive racist abuse every day, but this week it’s been particularly high profile.

There’s been an outpouring of support with many, many individuals declaring their admiration for the three men. The events have fueled discussions in the media, in the Houses of Parliament and in the streets. It’s inspired a new Facebook profile icon for people to visibly demonstrate their support.

All this is positive, I guess. It proves to the non-believers that racism in the UK is genuinely a thing. It also shows how many people are not racist, and are willing to speak out against racism.

In all honesty though, people being called racially abusive names is abhorent, but it’s the least of our problems. It’s systemic racism that really needs to be addressed. It’s the fact that the framework of the UK contains unacceptable imbalances in the experiences of ethnic minorities versus those who are White.

So what exactly is systemic racism?

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as this: policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.

In other words, it’s the way the UK is set up to operate, resulting in terrible facts such as these:

Black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy than White women.

Black and Asian people are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

48% of Black people who apply to a teacher training course are accepted onto one, compared to 72% of those who are White.

The ethnic groups with the highest levels of income poverty in the UK are Bangladeshies, Pakistanis and Black Africans. The groups with the lowest are White British and White Other.

People of colour applying for jobs after they leave school with their A Levels have to send 60% more applications to get a call back.

There is a 23.8% ethnicity pay gap in London – Black people are paid almost a quarter less than a White person doing the same job.

Black people are 40% more likely to be stopped and searched by the police in the UK.

So what can we as individuals do about it? How do we show our support? The equivalent to posting Black circles on our Facebook profiles?

My friend Caroline had some advice in our interview A is for Anti-Racism and here is my contribution too.

  1. Understand the problem

Do the work. Seek to understand the issues. Talk, listen, read, learn.

2. Raise awareness

Share your knowledge so that more people understand what we need to address. Share the stats on social media, talk to your friends and colleagues about it. This will have a greater impact than saying you think racism is wrong. We’d be worried if you didn’t.

3. Take action

Invest in Black businesses.

Read Black authors. (The Oo! That’s A Bit Racey! bookstagram account is full of inspiration on this one.)

Feedback to organisations who are doing it right. (I was buying plasters in Tescos today and I can’t tell you how delighted I was to see their own-brand plasters in a range of skin tones. I told the pharmacist. I was in a local gift shop, Indigo, at the weekend buying a present for a pregnant friend. I told the owner how much I appreciated seeing Black dollies and Black women on their greetings cards.)

Feedback to organisations who are letting us down. (I was looking for stylish birthday cards last year (both my Mum and my daughter have their birthdays in the same month). I emailed Papier to tell them why I didn’t purchase from them, because none of their images looked like either my Mum or my daughter. Now I’ve just been onto the Papier website and I’m delighted to see that there are some lovely illustrations of women on colour nowadays…I’ve emailed them to tell them I appreciate it. But anyway…I digress…..)

Question your work place – ask about their ethnicity pay gap, ask to see their recruitment policies. Question the number of ethnic minority board members.

Question your children’s school. What diverse narratives do they have in their library? How are they diversifying the curriculum? Who is represented in their lesson resources?

Write to your MP.

Sign a petition. Start a petition!

Give to an anti-racist charity.

Attend a peaceful protest.

And of course I’ll always say this….keep talking….keep learning. Conversation is key so get your big pants on and just do it.

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