Our response to the government's report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
On the 31st March, the government released its report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. To say that we at A New Normal are disappointed by what we’ve seen of the report is something of an understatement. Whilst we’re still working our way through the whole report (at 258 pages, it’s not a quick read), the sections we have seen are deeply troubling.
We cannot square the circle of the contradiction between what we hear about the lived experiences of individuals with the narrative provided in this report. We can’t recognise a society without institutional and systemic racism where folk from a black background are three times as likely as their white counterparts to die from Covid-19. Or where only 1% of those in FTSE 100 top 3 leadership positions are black. Or where black women are four times as likely as white women to die in childbirth. Or where black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people.
We’re really concerned about the impact this report has on those who’ve been on the sharp end of micro-aggressions, of quiet or explicit racism, or who’ve experienced the kinds of discrimination which this report seems to claim don’t exist. We know that to have your experiences invalidated on this scale is painful and damaging.
We are also concerned about the potential impact a report like this has on society as a whole. It makes it too easy for anyone not impacted to dismiss the work we all need to do to keep moving forwards. We see collective responsibility as being critical to create more inclusive workplaces, more inclusive communities and a more inclusive society. This report makes it easy to dismiss the work we all need to do.
We’re also concerned about the dismissal of “unconscious bias training” as a waste of time. Whilst we don’t think you can “train” people to be unbiased or inclusive, we simply cannot understand how organisations and individuals can be truly inclusive without understanding what bias is, and how it works. At its most simple and primeval, bias is a cognitive function which keeps us safe, but it does this in ways we have to understand, because it makes us more likely to view those who are “like us” positively. Which would be almost be ok if power was evenly spread across society, but we know it isn’t.
We strongly believe that individuals, organisations and society as a whole all have a part to play in creating a more equal world for all of us, and we’re heartened to know that our clients and the individuals who work within those organisations recognise the work still to be done. And for our part, we will continue to do what we believe is right, to challenge inequality where we see it, and to continue to support our clients to make the changes we know will improve their workplaces, and through the individuals working with them, wider society.