Black History Month: Time for More Actions and Fewer Talks

It’s Black History Month in the United Kingdom and the conversations and round-table talks in most corporates would be on full steam. While it’s very important to converse and dialogue, as this would enable leadership and colleagues to understand how to support their Black allies and foster more inclusion and diversity in the workplace. However, it is vital that we understand that deadpan rhetoric with no actionable plan is a waste of time for all involved.

I remember speaking to some of my contacts in the corporate world who felt disillusioned and disinterested in conversations by white allies on issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. The feeling stems from a place of anger as they believe that most corporates only joined the bandwagon to support their Black talents only because of the storm occasioned by the death of George Floyd Jnr.

According to Deloitte’s Missing Pieces Report, the events of the summer of 2020 may have been a tipping point for the large array of factors that brought to the forefront already existing needs for change in boardroom composition.

For leaders who are keen to have conversations to foster inclusion and diversity and have roundtable talks to understand the challenges of your Black allies, be sure that your organisations ethos reflect at the barest minimum inclusion and diversity at all levels. I have seen so many projects where only white colleagues were leading teams, and the operations while Black allies, even when qualified, were often over-looked. Often, Black colleagues would ignore opened roles because they believed that the recruitment process already had a candidate for the role, hence the lack of interest.

Also, I have often seen examples of ‘White Privilege’ on display which I found repulsive. Over a decade ago, I was a top performer on a role which I held on a fixed term basis and when the role was re-advertised, they offered the same role where I had received such high praise to a ‘white’ employee. When the news was communicated to me, I wept bitterly in the office. The next week, I dropped my resignation letter and even though I was offered another role without an interview, I politely declined this.

A few other examples, I remember a white colleague who refused to report to his operations lead who was a Black ally. That, for me, was the height of taunting ‘white privilege’ in our faces. The shocking thing, he got away with it. The day I refuse to work because I do not want to report to my white team lead, then I believe I am as good as gone. In recent times, I have seen white colleagues offered roles with no experience. Something that would have been a herculean task for a Black person to achieve.

Also, I have witnessed a lot of gatekeeping in corporate organisations which is preventing people who look like me from gaining access to desirable opportunities. 

I sometimes dream of ‘Black Privilege,’ not the type you’re conversant with, a world where my skin colour would earn me a fair chance at getting to the pinnacle of my career. Maybe that’s a dream, maybe I am not allowed to dream.

But as these conversations are ongoing around equal opportunities for Black allies and a more inclusive workforce, I enjoin all stakeholders to do better.

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