The pain is palpable & simply can't be ignoredJun 06, 2020
This week has felt intense. No matter your racial, political or other identity the events that the world is seeing and hearing right now are palpable and simply cannot be ignored. Millions of black people and their allies are hurting. Many of my friends, colleagues, and society actually have been very affected by recent events and felt distressed, myself included.
Although I’m a white woman, I consider myself an ally for others. I can however never truly know what it’s like to live the life of another. I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes and it’s never my intention to be offensive or clumsy with my words when I engage in conversations to try and understand.
Being an ally takes many different forms - there’s no right or wrong. An ally is someone interested in advocating for the rights of others. Someone willing to support and improve the outcomes for others. Someone who plays a role in bringing about change.
As an ally for others and an advocate of Inclusion I was quite rightly challenged about my voice and presence this week. I was asked where has my voice been? Where have I been present? How have I been showing up and being an ally for others. What have I done to use my privilege and influence?
In truth I underestimated just how much others were looking to me. This week on social media however I took the decision to ‘pass the mic’ so the voices of others could be amplified. My silence was in no way acceptance or avoidance. Behind the scenes my commitment to equality, eradicating racisms and injustice and ultimately driving change has been unwavering.
- I’ve reached out to my friends, colleagues and wider community to check they were ok and to let them know that I'm there for them.
- Challenged my clients and the Boards I sit on to consider how they are listening, engaging and building conversations with all stakeholders inside and out. Encouraging them to gain an increase cultural awareness and to have the confidence to have discussions during this period.
- Reflected upon my own privilege and the platform I have to bring about change
- Listened to others and gained an appreciation about assumptions which can often be made about the experiences and challenges faced by others in the world and society.
- Participated in good governance virtual meetings where I’ve listened and gained insight into the initiatives that others are taking.
- Renewed my commitment by signing the petition calling for the introduction of Mandatory Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting
- I’ve also been invited to attend BAME Minster question time
Allyship of course is needed right now. It’s also about being a long-term ally, someone committed to change. In my book ‘Closing the Gap – 5 Steps to Creating an Inclusive Culture.’ I talk about Ambassadors, Allies and Advocates and the critical role these individuals play in bringing about change. The four keyways in which we can all focus on which will LEAD to allyship are:
- Look & Listen – allies tune into what they see and hear around them
- Educate - Stephen Covey talks about ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ A strength of an ally is their desire to understand different perspective, to proactively seek to educate themselves to be unafraid to explore and ask.
- Action – A good ally shows their support through their actions. They will confront unacceptable behaviour or comments. They show up and won’t stand on the side-lines
- Determination – They are open to new ideas. They recognise they can’t always be right, in charge or have the best ideas. Listening to others and enabling advancement for all. A determination to be a champion and catalysis for change.
There is of course so much more that we can all do when it comes to equality. No one has the perfect words. If mine are clumsy or cause offense in any way, then I genuinely offer my sincerest apology.
I’m fully committed to continue to increase my own knowledge and awareness. To learn and enquire more, to take action at every opportunity that is within my gift to do so, and where it isn’t, I’ll challenge others to take the lead.
My ask… that you please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to be supportive, because I genuinely care. This offer has no time bounds. Racism, injustice and inequality are not just about recently magnified events, for sadly these have been occurring for lifetimes. For me, standing in solidarity with others is more than just this moment, it’s about being there always.
Now is the time to really listen and to have bold and uncomfortable conversations. Leaders must provide their people not only with physical but psychological safety. Leaders hold privileged platform to influence and lead change. They also need to take meaningful action.
So, take a moment and consider:
- How have you engaged with your people and championed racial equality?
- What can you and your organisation do in your community?
- What would promote equity and justice and activate meaningful change?
- How can you advocate for such action?
- How can you be an ally for others?
Racism, injustice and inequality erodes the fabric of our society. Leaders at all levels must use their voice, power, platforms and resources to help their people and their communities.
By standing together we can build a better world for us all.
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