A year on from George Floyd’s death, we asked a group of diversity, equality and inclusion specialists if anything has changed within organisations regarding race equality. Paula Rhone-Adrien, the UK’s leading Black female barrister, shares her views.
What initiatives have organisations put in place?
It is impressive that many organisations have offered employees the opportunity to raise concerns they may have had about suffering ill-treatment on the grounds of their race or from being a witness to such, in a confidential and non-judgmental way. Furthermore, diarising compulsory training for all members of staff is a good move forward that allows exploration of the issues around diversity and inclusion.
Is talking about race still taboo?
For many yes. There are some voices that are much louder than others in the fight for recognition and fair treatment. They can sometimes intimidate those who are nervous about asking questions that may be deemed insulting. The louder voices can attack those who are not as knowledgeable, whilst at the same time, expressing upset when asked a question, retorting that it is not their job to educate the ignorant. The fear for some is that they remain uncertain of what to say or what to do, that they will cause insult, be attacked, or even cancelled. Unless we all accept the part we need to play in breaking down ignorance, racism will forever be free to roam unchallenged.
Has progress been made to level the playing field for minorities in organisations?
It’s hard to say just 12 months after the horrific loss of George Floyd. However, we do know that there is a very long way to go. Why? Because the statistics tell us. Therefore, I am sceptical about us bridging the gap in such a short space of time. Qualitatively, we read about individuals who continue to suffer, be it in the workplace, their access to public services, or the negative outcomes that people of colour still face when coming into contact with particular institutions in our society, for example the criminal justice system. These problems, which are endemic, within the very fabric of our organisations and institutions, will not simply evaporate just because we are ticking more boxes, but I am confident that it is a start.
What more needs to be done?
Make E & D training compulsory for all those within organisations and institutions, because the problem isn’t just about race. We shouldn’t be attacking each other, but there are stereotypes, and unconscious biased views that have been allowed to filter unchecked into our DNA over 100’s of years.
Have lessons been learnt?
For so many more than I thought possible, which has ensured that E & D is truly a worldwide movement.
Keep up to date with Paula’s journey on social media @familylawguruuk