This week- on May 25th- is the third anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. This event that sparked an international movement and outcry for racial justice and the events of 2020 still resonate today.
Many organisations have not fulfilled their promises and have not followed through with ensuring racial equality in the workplace.
From messages of “we care” and “we must do more”, what does such inertia and lack of meaningful progress really say to its colleagues and the wider community?
On 25th May 2020, a Black man was brutally murdered at the hands of police in Minneapolis, USA. This horrific and public display of systemic racism and inhumanity captured the world’s attention, as George Floyd was remembered as a father, friend, son and example of an oppressed individual at the face of enduring racism towards Black and ethnically diverse people. The summer of 2020 is now remembered as a period of reflection, education, awareness and change as Black Lives Matter protests swept the international community, drawing in allies and like-minded activists alike.
This week is an opportunity for the international community to reflect on what has changed, for better or for worse, in the past 3 years. As many of us made commitments and promises for a more just society, the time has come to hold ourselves accountable to such promises.
This week is also an opportunity for organisations and workplaces to reflect. As hashtags and images swept social media three years ago, many organisations joined the PR movement by making bold promises for change.
A poll conducted at our most recent event found that 40% of attendees felt their organisation had shown none or not enough progress in tackling race inequality since the murder of George Floyd. An updated poll with our LinkedIn community also found that 79% of voters felt their organisation had done minimal to not enough meaningful progress either. Three years on and not enough has changed, in the workplace and beyond…
So what has changed for race inequality 3 years on?
2023 began with a despairing ‘deja-vu’ moment, when 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was murdered by multiple police officers in Memphis this January, to which 5 officers have now been charged. Many in the US have expressed continued outcry that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act– a federal bill to reform police use of controversial tactics, such as no-knock warrants- is still yet to be passed and is unlikely to be so long as a Republican-controlled chamber remains at federal level.
The UK context 3 years on remains equally as concerning, with systemic racism and broken promises rife. This year’s Baroness Casey Review identified “institutional racism” in the Met Police Force, where “Public consent is broken.”. The report revealed evidence of workplace bullying, as a Muslim officer had bacon placed in his boots and a Sikh officer had his beard cut, influencing higher rates of resignation and disciplining amongst ethnically diverse employees.
Much of the research remains pessimistic on current conditions of racism and inequality. Research in the Evidence for Equality National Survey, conducted by the University of Manchester, St Andrew’s and King’s College London identified persisting racism in the UK. Dr Dharmi Kapadia, of the University of Manchester, concluded that:
“Our data is stark evidence that racism is an enduring feature of British society today… We need to seriously transform the policies and procedures that enable racist discrimination to persist, in order to ensure better outcomes and life chances for ethnic and religious minority people.”
Floyd’s name remains symbolic in society, and is still used by organisations to project a message of justice. This month’s Pulitzer Prize Awards celebrated the important life of Floyd, and the legacy he created, in the book ‘His Name is George Floyd’. Co-author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Robert Samuels, tweeted:
“I hope this Pulitzer recognition helps to extend and vivify this necessary conversation we need to have in this country about the roots of our problems. And to remind people that George Floyd’s life mattered—truly mattered—[to] the many who loved him.”
It is clear that whilst cultural shifts have taken place, race inequality remains rife in society. 3 years on from the milestone movement that followed George Floyd’s death, our commitments have not been followed through.
Is the workplace racially equal 3 years on?
Are employers and allies maintaining their commitments to ethnically diverse employees?
Research has shown that the dial is yet to be shifted for complete race equality. The updated Parker Review praised the British corporate community for making good headway in the past year and “significant changes” to ethnically diverse boardroom representation. However, none of the top positions in these companies are held by ethnically diverse members, and there is significantly greater representation of Asian executive board members in these figures than there are individuals from the Black community. Representation within leadership is not a fast-pass to race equality: belonging and inclusivity are still yet to be achieved.
Furthermore, a recent survey, by Wates Group, sampled over 5000 employees and identified that 40% experienced microaggressions at work because of their identity. A further 62% of Black Caribbean and 47% from a Pakistani background had experienced microaggressions and discrimination because of their race/ethnicity. Further evidence from the TUC in 2022 also estimated that 120,000 ethnically diverse workers had quit their jobs because of racism, with one in four ethnically diverse employees having been subject to racist jokes in the workplace.
It is apparent that the workplace remains unequal and discriminatory for ethnically diverse employees. The commitments many organisations made during the Summer of 2020 are yet to be actioned and felt. Whilst change is iterative, ongoing and long-term, we must act now.
Let’s reflect and let’s act. Self-accountability will create change.
As you look in the mirror this week, ask yourself:
What were your commitments towards race equality 3 years ago?
How can you hold yourself accountable to this change- yesterday, today and tomorrow?
We would value your thoughts. If you want to see change and race equality in the workplace, join the Race Equality Matters’ movement.
So, what is your motivation to make society and the workplace better for generations to come?
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If you want to see change and race equality in the workplace, join the Race Equality Matters’ movement if you are not registered already.