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23rd June 2020

Our response to Black Lives Matter

Enough is Enough

We have reflected on how we should respond to #BlackLivesMatter and to the callous and brutal murder of George Floyd in the US. We did not want to say something for the sake of it. Instead, we waited until we could all discuss it as a diverse team and share our experiences.

We work in Occupational Psychology, so we focus on helping people to achieve their potential and yet, sadly, there are those who in 2020 are prevented from reaching this.

Something which stood out to us was the lack of diversity and representation of Black people in senior positions of the British Psychological Society (BPS), our professional body. In a small way, as an ongoing project, we have been trying to address this imbalance by coaching women from Black Minority Ethnic groups who are BPS members to help them to be ready to progress into senior positions. As strong advocates for diversity and inclusion, it is too often in our work with organisations that we see a lack of representation in senior leadership teams. We believe that this has to change, we all need to do more.

Allison Marshall, our Practice Manager said today

“As Black people, we are tired – we need to sort this out for humankind. Black people want to be included, we want to contribute; Black lives matter and every life matters so let’s work together. We would like to have open and honest conversations with white people, they are sometimes scared to offend us, but we want you to be interested in our experience. Don’t be afraid to ask us questions we want to talk to you.”

In our meeting today, we discussed our own experiences and being witnesses of racism.

  • We heard examples of racist behaviour experienced by team members and their families going back to the 1950s and 60s.
  • Coming right up to date we heard about a recent incident experienced by family members of our colleague during Covid19. In a local supermarket, white couples were being allowed into the shop, two people to a basket, by a staff member. However, when a young Black couple got to the front of the queue, they were told that only one of them could go forward. When challenging this, they were told by the staff member, “because that is what I have said.” They left feeling humiliated and angry. How can this be happening today? People stood by and said nothing, we are bystanders and are colluding if we do not stand up.
  • We heard of stories about being refused service in pubs, use of the N-word by a teacher and in the supermarket, bullying at school and at work and about people not getting jobs because of their race.
  • We also shared stories about erosion of confidence due to fear of drawing attention to themselves, this has held people back in their career progression, this is not fair.
Why does this happen? There are many theories and academic studies, we think that it comes from fear of the other. However, knowing why has not helped to make changes so far, we have reflected on what we can do:

As individuals:

  • We agreed that it is vital to acknowledge that racism exists.
  • Some individuals in society have an advantage over others and it is important that we all acknowledge this.
  • We will challenge racist behaviour and unlearn any poor behaviour.
  • We will question our own attitudes and learn more about the experiences of others in our communities.
  • We will think before we speak and make sure that we are not offending through our assumptions.

As a team:

  • We commit to continuing the conversation about race and discrimination on a weekly basis. The #BlackLivesMatter movement encouraged us to have a frank and honest team discussion that we felt was really important, so we want to continue to build on this and reflect on our progress.
  • We encourage those who have suffered racism to share their experiences with the group so we are aware of the prevalence of racism that exists in society today.
  • We will continue to support Black and Minority Ethnic people throughout the work that we do.

As members of society:

  • We support and encourage education about racism and Black history from childhood, it is very important that this is in the school curriculum.
  • We must focus on what unites us, what we have in common and also celebrate different cultures.
  • Let’s just be kind – we all have value – let us appreciate each other instead of fighting and treat everyone with compassion.
We commit to this change and hope to see permanent positives changes in society. We hope that you will join us.
Black Lives Matter
You can see our statement here