Amplifying External Voices

By Olivia Parnell


Wow, four years since the start of the pandemic. And whilst we all marvel at where our lives are now since we’ve somewhat sprung back to ‘normal’, we also find ourselves reminiscing of what our highlights were from the time we all stayed indoors.


Was it maybe the use of the app house party, the banana bread we baked, Joe Wicks getting us up every morning, or the murder of George Floyd prompting people to suddenly care about racism and promising to help dismantle the system of oppression?


I’ve spent quite some time within the D&I space in recent years so I can confidently say that progression is being made. There are communities & networks actively and continuously working towards raising awareness, delivering training, and presenting solutions.


However, there are those that fall guilty of simply following the trends, and any engagement they have to D&I unfortunately has been nothing more than performative.


Ticking boxes vs following through on your word


It’s worth noting that there is a distinct difference between D&I and anti-racism. But there also appears to be a discrepancy between saying you care, ticking the boxes legally and actually following through on your word by being an effective ally.


For me, the visibility of caring is why the murder of George stays vivid in my mind, because it marked a time when my peers finally started to see what I’ve been experiencing. All of a sudden people began to analyse what we mean by privilege and Reni Eddo- Lodge’ words reached further than we could have ever imagined. It became impossible to decipher sincerity, when I’d spent so long
yearning for this moment to happen.


Imagine my confusion and shock when I am hailed an EDI Champion, while simultaneously at the firing end of harassment and microaggressions in a space that had vowed to ‘care’.


It’s always a proud moment when networks, communities and businesses can show they are being progressive – especially making their spaces more diverse, inclusive and accessible. This has accelerated across many sectors since 2020. And of course, it is typically those from marginalised groups that are being placed front and centre to represent the EDI bandwagon.


Personality clash vs a microaggression


But it all becomes performative if the people internally are experiencing discrimination and those in senior positions are failing to identify, believe and manage it – when colleagues hear the phrase ‘personality clash’ when describing a microaggression they’ve encountered.


And what are the impacts of this? White feelings continue to be protected, intent is still the focus point, employees aren’t psychologically safeguarded in work, and tokenism is at an all time high.


Businesses and organisations need to set out goals and stick to them; a further commitment needs to take place to be an effective ally – something that goes a little bit beyond training. It can be difficult because even if a workplace has identified their values, a high turnover of staff can make recruitment feel a little like a revolving door. Particularly in the third sector, projects and managers come and go, and the task of filling the next role becomes lazy. Often meaning anyone can be filling senior positions, they could be an ally, they could weaponize their privilege. Who knows in fast paced sectors such as this?


Could we have done more?


The issue of racism exists outside of the constraints of employment. It was people’s own personal social media’s they were posting the black square. It was people’s own morality that urged them to make a vow to be part of the wider anti-racism movement. It would be unfair to say people were lying, but my observation see’s the hype of this die out very quickly in a workplace setting. But of  course, this isn’t where the issue is rooted. So, in the coming weeks when we reminisce about lockdown, and the key moments that happened, lets also review the commitment made to allyship and what more can be done.


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