On the 4th July 2020, Olympic sprinter Ricardo Dos Santos and his partner, Team GB athlete Bianca Williams, were driving home from training with their 3-month old child in the car when they were stopped by police.
Multiple officers surrounded the couple and handcuffed and searched them on suspicion of having drugs and weapons. They said that not only did Dos Santos drive past a red light but that the officers could smell marijuana when both Dos Santos and Williams exited from the car.
The police would find no drugs or weapons in the car or on the couple.
Dos Santos took the case to a tribunal where it was found that both PC Jonathan Clapham and PC Sam Franks not only lied about Dos Santos driving past a red light but they also lied about smelling marijuana in Dos Santos’ car.
Black people are the most stopped and searched race by police in Great Britain
The 2023 Home Office report revealed that across England and Wales, black people are stopped and searched by police officers at a rate that is 4.8 times higher than white people.
When broken down into specific areas, in Dorset the rate is 11.5 times higher and for Black Londoners the rate is 3 times higher than White Londoners (Home Office, 2023).
Shockingly, Andy George, the President of the National Black Police Association says, “four out of five people who are stopped and searched have committed no crime.”
The mental health impact
Evidence suggests black people are disproportionately targeted by police when it comes to being stopped and searched. This has a mental health impact.
Dos Santos said, “If I see police now, I tense up. I am left with trauma.”
Unfortunately, Dos Santos has been stopped and searched over 20 times in his life which means he has relived this “traumatic experience” more than twenty times over.
A recent survey by Crest Advisory found that more than half of the black people searched by UK Police felt humiliated and embarrassed (Crest Advisory, 2022).
The mental health impact bears similarities to how ethnically diverse colleagues feel when they experience racial microaggressions in the workplace.
In 2 recent Race Equality Matters polls, 83% of respondents said they experienced microaggressions, and 53% of respondents said racial microaggressions make them feel angry while a further 22% said racial microaggressions make them anxious.
Other respondents said it also made them feel isolated and depressed.
Is stop and search the macro form of microaggressions?
Both racial microaggressions and particular instances of stop and search are caused by unconscious bias.
Unconscious bias is defined as social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness (Office of Diversity and Outreach).
It means we may have certain beliefs about ethnically diverse people that we aren’t conscious of and it can play a part in how we speak and act towards them.
In the case of the stop and search Dos Santos’ experienced, there have been accusations that the police were suspicious of him because he was a “Black person in an expensive car.”
In fact, Dos Santos had been stopped and searched nine times within four weeks of driving his new Mercedes in 2018.
In the workplace, we may unintentionally say a racial microaggression to our ethnically diverse colleagues, not because we are aware of the meaning behind what we said, but because our unconscious bias means we have preconceived ideas of people that are more harmful than we realise.
Our biases can be hurtful, especially when it comes to racial microaggressions. For ethnically diverse colleagues it can be “a death by a thousand cuts.” Racial microaggressions are not micro, at all.
Where do we go from here?
Due to their lack of honesty, PC Clapham and PC Franks were found guilty of gross misconduct. As a result, they will both be placed on a list barring them from serving in the police.
However, the tribunal did not agree with the claim that the race of Dos Santos and Williams played a role in their treatment by police.
Dos Santos, however, disagrees and believes that their experience is an example of institutional racism. He said,
“It’s 30 years since Stephen Lawrence and I’m going through the same issues people were going through then.”
The data shared by the Home Office does confirm that black people are more likely to be stopped and searched by police but unfortunately data cannot show if racism or unconscious bias plays a role in who is stopped and searched.
The trauma caused by what happened may never go away for Dos Santos and his family.
For the sacked police officers, it seems they may be just fine. An anonymous online fundraiser has been set up to financially support the two sacked officers and so far, £100,000 has been raised.
Ricardo Dos Santos and Bianca Williams have now launched a charity called 4 The Voiceless which they hope will help people who, like them, feel targeted by the police.
We may not be able to fix the injustices that exist in big institutions but as Black History Month comes to an end, it is in our power to continue taking action to promote race equality and equity in the workplace.
When we choose not to take action to stop racism or prejudice in the workplace, there are consequences.
A recent survey by the Trade Unions Congress revealed that more than 120,000 workers quit their jobs because of racism.
If you are a senior leader or a colleague, you do have the ability to be an active ally and support your ethnically diverse colleagues.
An example of how a senior leader can take action is by observing organisational data. e.g. Are the number of promotions, bonuses and recruitment equal amongst all colleagues or do some groups seem to fair better than others.
Race Equality Matters is currently developing a new solution called #It’sNotMicro which provides a step-by-step guide on how senior leaders, allies and colleagues can hear, question and explain microaggressions in the workplace.
Attend our next Get Ready For Race Equality Week event where we will be launching the #ItsNotMicro!
If you would like to carry on the conversation, we would value your thoughts. Please do follow us and join the conversation on LinkedIn.
If you want to see change and race equality in the workplace, join the Race Equality Matters’ movement if you are not registered already.
Image – Shutterstock