Today is Martin Luther King day, a federal holiday in the USA – a day to celebrate his insistent and peaceful work to establish racial equality and to remove segregation in the US.
Making change happen and dismantling systems that exclude or work against some people and not others is still a work in progress. In Europe we are all protected by the Human Rights Act however each person will have a different experience of what that means in reality. Our access to schooling, healthcare and a decent place to live will depend on where we were born, in which city, in which country. Even in Europe. Growing up as a brown kid will feel a particular way in Europe – which doors open, what encouragement you get, how you may be judged, even before you open your mouth to speak.
We are all becoming more aware of the biases we carry around with us that have been formed as we have grown up. However some of these still stay hidden and are harmful for others in our societies. Our education, healthcare and policing systems, some of the key structures in our society for well-being, are not adapted to everyone’s needs and are actually detrimental for some.
What is happening in the places where you have responsibility? How are you pushing for shifts and changes to happen?
Desmond Tutu said ‘If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor ‘.
Is the organisation you work for really looking at how employees are paid to establish fairness? Do you feel able to speak up about creating more flexible working? Do you see black people being patronised in your organisation and do you speak out about it? Do you laugh along with jokes about trans people, say nothing or challenge the people making them? How are your prospects for career progression if you do speak out about changes that you deem necessary? Do you have a sense of how some employees may always feel on their guard or scrutinised in their place of work because of what they look like or for how they show up? This is exhausting and happens to women when they are in board room full of men. It is the experience of people of colour and many others.
As we start this year we can choose to speak out, ask for change and move things. We can also choose to increase our understanding of, and challenge, our own bias and the assumptions we carry around with us. Let’s be part of a building new ways of doing things that include, and recognise the differences between people that make life rich and increase learning.