Black Lives and Inclusion Still Matter

Post author image. Sandra Kerr
Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community remembers George Floyd one year on.
Sandra Kerr smiles at the camera

“Can we move on now?” These were the words of some, as early as June and July last year, soon after the murder of George Floyd and the events surrounding it in May 2020. How can we move on or forget the horrific footage of a man being slowly suffocated, not once but multiple times through various news feeds in the US, UK and across the globe? Most of us had never witnessed a cold-blooded murder but because of that horrific day, we now have.

We must not forget how sad, sick and stunned we felt. The disbelief that in broad daylight, during a pandemic, a police officer felt permitted to kneel on the neck of a handcuffed man until he was dead.

My call to business in response to George Floyd’s murder and the spotlight on Black inclusion remains the same now as it was then; leadership, allyship, employees and community are essential.

Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community

Yes, it is ugly, and some might say “Why are you dredging this up again?” but it must be spotlighted, as it is symptomatic of a much bigger challenge that still exists one year on. A challenge that is still felt across the world. Black lives are valuable. Everyone’s blood is red, and we all need air to breathe no matter our skin tone, ethnic background or what part of the world we live in.

The outpouring of dismay and protests that we saw from people of all races saying “enough!” may be baffling to some, but not to me.

My call to business in response to George Floyd’s murder and the spotlight on Black inclusion remains the same now as it was then; leadership, allyship, employees and community are essential.

Leadership

This means setting the tone from the top table and inviting Black and diverse voices to join them. Leadership should be inclusive. Leadership should listen. Leadership should not try to diminish or dismiss what it does not understand. Leadership should remain curious and courageous and committed to act in the face of evidence and lived experience. Businesses need leadership that is no longer comfortable making decisions that impact Black people and those from diverse ethnic backgrounds without consultation, without inviting them into the room so that their voices and perspectives can be heard. Businesses need leadership that is brave and willing to be accountable.

Allyship 

Thank you to all people using their power and voice to amplify and include the voices of Black colleagues, customers and communities. Active allies are committed to being anti-racist, not just being appalled and silent. They speak up when they see and hear things that are not right. They are allies who recognise that White privilege is not about having everything easy, but means not having to worry about Whiteness being an obstacle to recruitment, progression or advancement. Business in the Community’s (BITC) Race at Work Black Voices Report published in August 2020 found that 33% of Black people saw their ethnicity as a potential career blocker compared to only 1% of White people. BITC has produced the Black Talent Allyship Toolkit with the support of Business in the Community’s Race Equality Leadership Team to help allies support their Black colleagues in the workplace.

Employees and communities

Actively listening to employees and communities must be ongoing. Inclusion in inception, inclusion in design,  and inclusion in distribution, have to become the default setting. This will enable us to create the future we want and ensure that as a nation we truly build back responsibly, fairer and together. If you have not started the conversation yet it is never too late to begin talking about race.

Here are a few starting points for taking action:

  • Individuals
    • Complete the Race at Work Survey 2021 and encourage those you know to do the same. Make your voice heard to drive change. Every voice matters.
  • Employers
    • Join more than 700 employers representing more than 6 million employees and sign the Race at Work Charter. If you have already done this, ensure that the organisations in your supply chain do the same.
  • Engage your employees
    • The mental health impacts of COVID-19 and the racial disparities exposed in employment, income, housing, health, and criminal justice across the UK and around the world cannot be ignored. Check in on your employees’ wellbeing today and start the journey of conversation, consultation, and collaboration by creating an employee network.