Let’s Talk About Race
CEO Blog October 2020
One in three people living in the community served by Hammersmith United Charities is Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority community. Despite this, Hammersmith United Charities has never had a conversation about race and our role in tackling racism.
We started thinking more explicitly about racism earlier this year when the Black Lives Matter movement made headlines. We ought not to need to be reminded that racism exists in the UK. Studies repeatedly show that there are persistent and systemic racial inequalities leading to people from ethnic minorities being more likely to experience poorer outcomes in health and education, being disproportionately represented in the youth criminal justice system and prison, or being more likely to suffer from an “ethnic penalty” in earnings.
Coronavirus made these inequalities more visible locally. Feedback from our grantees highlighted how people from black or other ethnic minority communities were far more likely to be seriously affected because they disproportionately occupy key worker or other manual roles; are more likely to live in crowded accommodation without easy access to outdoor space; more frequently suffer existing health inequalities and are less likely to have a financial buffer to help them ride out the financial consequences of the pandemic. Hammersmith United Charities trustee, Adam Matan, CEO of the Anti Tribalism Movement, published a report in April spelling out how the Somali community was more adversely impacted by the pandemic. As the situation goes on these inequalities will continue to be exacerbated.
Over the summer we asked local children to share their hopes and dreams as part of a lockdown arts project. One young person answered simply “Justice for Black Lives”, another wrote “Equality for All”. It is dismaying to think that children growing up in the 21st century in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, in our own area of benefit, are already living with the knowledge that for them equality is a dream not a reality. This was the last prompt we needed to make this a priority for the Charity to address.
It is notoriously difficult to talk about race and racism and so we called on local experts NOVA New Opportunities to facilitate a discussion between staff and trustees at this month’s board meeting to start the conversation.
They encouraged us to bring down any fear factor by talking frankly about times in our lives when we might have experienced, witnessed or even exhibited racism, how we responded at the time and how we might respond differently now or in the future. We explored our individual positions further by considering our response to phrases which are very visible in the national conversation about race such as “white privilege” and “All Lives Matter”. It was an uncomfortable session at times, but an important first step to get over any initial discomfort and have an open conversation about racism.
Of course, it’s not enough just to have a discussion, we have a duty to take a stand against racism too. NOVA provide a toolkit to help organisations like us think through the steps we can and should take and we will be using this to shape our next discussion in October the outcome of which we will also publish.
The pandemic has made it difficult to meet the young people who shared their dreams of equality and justice with us but I very much hope that when at last I do, I will be able to demonstrate to them what Hammersmith United Charities is doing to help make their dreams come true.