Who wants the play their ‘race card’? A term often used when someone complains that something (normally unpleasant) has happened to them because of their skin colour or nationality. The irony is the ace of the race card pack is saying that someone else is playing the race card and political correctness has gone mad. So guess who still wins that game.
Except it’s not a game.
I quite like the melanin in my skin and I’m proud of the history and culture that goes along with it. Then someone tells me that they don’t see all that because apparently, they are ‘colour-blind’.
The only thing I want to turn a blind eye to are the things I find troubling. I’m not quite sure why someone would need to be blind to my colour.
I’ve certainly never asked anyone not to see me as black because it’s part of what makes me who I am. What I ask is to not be judged on my skin colour alone, sometimes that request is silently and totally denied.
Mellody Hobson spoke about it amazingly in her Ted Talk. Don’t be colour blind, she encouraged. Be colour brave! You can see that here. Ms Hobson spoke about having open and honest discussions around race. That the subject is difficult to talk about means we should be talking about it.
Some scientific research concludes that we are born with a capacity to be prejudiced. It’s our survival instinct that causes us to think about them and us. Interestingly one study showed that the least prejudiced people aren’t of mixed racial heritage, it’s people in mixed racial relationships. Although some people disagree with these studies I can see how the former theory seems the most likely if we look at society.
So why are some people racist and some not if we all have that capacity?
Because many people know racism is not actually rational. It doesn’t make much sense as a person of any race can be warm and kind. The same goes for the more unpleasant side of humanity. Every human has the capacity to be good or bad. Because rational people process this they evolve past their base instincts to endeavour to treat everyone equally. But then another problem arises and that is our unconscious biases. They are harder to spot because we are having reactions and making decisions in an unconscious way.
In order to have a fairer society those are the biases we need to check, deal with and try to eradicate. With an out and racist you know where you are. With someone who thinks they are colour-blind there is more of an issue. Whilst they consciously say all the right things their unconscious will be fulfilling their instinctive thoughts and feelings.
The other day during a discussion over an issue around race with someone they said they think they’re pretty ‘clued up’ on race and diversity. They later added in the ‘good old days’ you could say what you wanted. the good old days when many groups had to put up with whatever? The racist and sexist jokes everywhere from on the street, to on the TV and in the workplace.
Those old days were only good for a privileged few.
The latter comment proved whilst they were consciously trying to understand issues around race and diversity the privilege of being used to saying whatever you want is hard to shake.
Without realising it the person spoke out loud their internal truth. They have to remember to say the right thing. Because actually the not so civil thoughts are bubbling away under the surface, even if they don’t want to admit it.
This is why we need to grow out of diversity and mature into inclusion. Diversity says I can collect a really wonderful collection of folks who are all different. But anyone can collect a bunch of people and put them together. It takes a more grown up perspective to mesh that collection together. Truly appreciating every person flaws and all. To think the best of each person and utilise them fully by using their different experiences and cultural points of view. We must ensure our biases are checked if we really want to live in an inclusive society.
Kiera Phyo helped me to love Tearfund when I was there for a round-table on diversity. When talking about a more racially inclusive future she said “It’s not about asking ‘them’ to join ‘us’. It’s about us all creating something together.”When this attitude is widely taken on there will be so much richness in what is created.
Too many times when the word diversity is said too many people think of black and brown people, ticking boxes and a scheme that means that they will have fewer opportunities because of the first two things. In the past when working on a diversity panel I said we need everyone in here not just BAME, because if everyone isn’t in the room it’s not diverse.
Maybe the word diversity needs to be put to one side like multicultural was. Not that we’ll never use it, it seems to me that we don’t just want a diverse collection of people on our boards because someone said we should. Actually what we want is for all people to be included in boards, within senior leadership teams, behind the scenes in media as well as the front and in a plethora of other situations because when we have a wide range of viewpoints and ideas we are better. When some people in the room are not truly included their contribution can be devalued and not recognised for the goldmine it is.
Those extra customers/viewers/consumers are in a group, that too often, no one with decision making power knows much about. How to understand and reach them is by getting someone from that group to be an included and vocal part of your team. It pays dividends. There’s a business case for inclusion too.
People rebut all this by saying you can’t just give the job to someone because they’re female/black/disabled. This proves the unconscious bias point totally. Are you saying that there’s no female/black/disabled person anywhere that can do the job well? Yes, that’s what you are saying. That you assume the only person that can do the job is basically someone in your image? Time Magazine asks, ‘Are you sure you’re not racist?‘
It’s the subtle difference between saying you treat everyone equally, which suggests you don’t think they are equal to you, and everyone is equal. Everyone now and again must listen to the words we are saying. They are the ones that’s flow from our hearts.
Let’s mature past collecting and into including. That will mean checking our biases and you can do that here. Getting to know and understand people who are different from us. The next time you find yourself about to say that someone is playing the race card check you’re not doing it either.