After Black History Month last year I wrote a blog pondering how we could harness the momentum that BHM generates to make sure we drive the workforce race equality standard (WRES) and the improvements needed. It was unimaginable at that point that the spotlight would be so sharply brought into focus on racism and inequalities just the following year.
No one could escape the news that unfolded from the beginning of 2020 – the disproportionate impact of Covid 19 on black people, the murder of George Floyd witnessed by millions across the globe as a black man died at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Black Lives Matter protests around the world and then more recently the indictment of police involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
And so as BHM2020 began, I have to say that I would understand anyone who said they felt anything but celebratory. Yet, on reflection these recent events alone are absolutely the reason why we need to embrace BHM more than ever. Because it is only by learning about the contributions, history and achievements of black people that we will begin to deconstruct the racism that pervades our communities, our workplaces and spaces, and the narrative of today. It’s how we as individuals take responsibility for shifting our understanding so that day to day micro aggressions become a thing of the past and history that is taught is inclusive to all who have built our nation and our institutions.
Last year I wrote … “it’s really easy to dwell on the risk of doing something and end up doing nothing. But as unknown and fearful as it is, something is better than nothing- if the intention is good, then good enough is often enough to take the next step.”
Over the last year I have been part of Surrey Heartlands steering groups concerned with improving the experience and opportunities for the BAME workforce, as well as access to and experience of health care, for the BAME population in Surrey. And I have observed exactly that – people from all races coming forward and finding the courage to take the next step towards addressing the barriers and challenges faced by Black people.
Black colleagues have bravely shared their lived experiences with people who maybe for the first time, have really wanted to understand and work together to be part of the solution, however uncomfortable that may have got. And, white colleagues have voiced openly their fears of getting it wrong, of recognising the contribution they may have had to a system that caused hurt to its most precious asset – its workforce. That too takes courage.
That for me is a reason to celebrate and embrace BHM2020, and a reason to be cautiously optimistic that we can make a difference. And so a little like last year and the fear that is often part of taking the next step, I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s famous quote “ Do the best you can until you know better . Then when you know better, do better….
This year of all years really is our chance to both know and do better. Happy BHM2020.