Educating Ourselves: actively opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance

post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, adapted for the #DiverseReading blog

 

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As an individual who discusses and works in diversity, inclusion and representation most days, I’ve been lost for words recently.

There is no singular way for us to show up. What is most important is that we do the work that we can and it’s okay for this work to look different depending on our emotional capacity, financial circumstances, physical ability and personal situations. As long as we remain collectively committed to educating ourselves and those around us so we can change the systems we live in.

After seeing so many resources and helpful information being shared on social media over the last week, I’ve collected some of what others have shared and some resources I have learnt from, and put this together with the intention to help myself and those around me gain a better and more thorough understanding of racism and the anti-racist work we can all be doing.

To be anti-racist is to be a person who (actively) opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.

It means ‘checking your privilege’, challenging our white* privilege and admitting how we might have benefited from a system of oppression in ways we have not considered before.
It means having conversations with our families, friends, colleagues, communities about race, even if it’s uncomfortable.
It means trying our best to educate ourselves on the history we might not have taught in school, on what we can do now.
It means showing up for Black folks** and striving for racial justice.
It means standing against overt and covert white supremacy and racism, from now on and always.

We are all educating ourselves and (un)learning at our own pace and investing our energy in ways that we can. We’ve been seeing a lot of information and resources shared across various platforms and I am finding it helpful to collect what I am seeing, so that I can continuously educate myself.

 

I hope you might too.

 

This document is by no means an exhaustive list and I hope to be able to continue to come back to it and update it with new knowledge and understanding over time. If you have any suggestions for additions, please let me know.

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

White Fragility is when a white person feels uncomfortable about conversations around race. It can make you feel like you have to tone down your experiences with racism to make the person feel comfortable. Honor yourself by reclaiming the right to honestly express when something does not sit well in your body.

(‘white fragility’ infographic credit to @ogorchukwuu on Instagram)

 

*“When I write about white people … I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology …The politics of whiteness transcends the colour of anyone’s skin. It is an occupying force in the mind. It is a political ideology that is concerned with maintaining power through domination and exclusion. Anyone can buy into it, just like anyone can choose to challenge it.” (Eddo-Lodge, 2017)

**Whilst non-Black People of Colour (POC) also face racism, Black folks are suffering disproportionately under white supremacy and right now they need our support and attention.

 

 

 

Why are there so few BME staff in leadership positions?

I am used to being a minority in terms of being a female physical scientist. I am less used to being a minority in terms of ethnicity at a Higher Education event. However, last week I attended the BME Leadership in Higher Education Summit run by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE). Around 200 delegates discussed the possible reasons why there has been relatively little progress in increasing the representation of BME staff at senior levels in HE, and shared possible ways to move forward. There were probably about 25 or so who were part of the WME (White Majority Ethnic) group – point number 1 – if we are going to label groups – we need to label ourselves and by doing so acknowledge our white-ness. There are too many interesting topics that were discussed to present comprehensively in one blog, but here I’d like to share a few questions here.

  • Is University of Reading ready to move forward on race equality? Public sector organisations tend to be at different levels in terms of their readiness and ability to move forward on race equality. Comparing local government and NHS experiences, these can be classified as:
    1. Resisting – no understanding
    2. Intending – say it’s important but don’t understand the depth of action needed
    3. Starting – have a better understanding of local issues in the context of high level statements
    4. Developing – understand the issues and their aims but need to prioritise
    5. Achieving – clear vision but need to maintain

I would suggest that some of us in the organisation are around the “starting” level, whilst others are closer to “intending”, and some areas may be closer to resisting. In moving forward, there may well be people who have in the past benefited from privilege who find themselves no longer in that position. How do we respond to those people’s whilst sticking to our commitment to equality? Are we ready to have the difficult conversations needed?

  • Are we doing the most effective  “diversity training”? There was much discussion of “diversity training” with the general view being that unconscious bias training can be useful for starting conversations, but more useful in terms of changing culture is bystander training – giving people the confidence to challenge behaviors, and cultural competence (also referred to as intercultural skills).
  • What is the role of the white majority ethnic (WME) group? Here at Reading we have had a strong growth in our LGBT+ Ally network. Is it appropriate to do something similar here – or perhaps better a way of publically acknowledging membership of the Cultural Diversity Group (which is open to anyone who has an interest in race and ethnicity and how these influence staff and students at Reading).
  • What is the role of a “race champion”? Here we were introduced to a 3 stage framework: Stand up (engage), stand together (self-organised groups), stand aside (let the emergent leadership drive the agenda)

But perhaps the question that summed up the day was in fact:

“Why do people who look differently have to perform differently to achieve the same?”