Supporting Race Equality Work
by Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi
Racism and Race Equality
Racism isn’t limited to overt name-calling and violence, it often takes more subtle forms or microaggressions. Systemic racism or structural racism, where practice and policies are inherently beneficial to certain races over others, can impede race equality efforts. Unfortunately universities are not immune to racism and, to create change, we must actively progress race equality work. An inquiry ‘Tackling Racial Harassment: Universities Challenged’ by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found:
- 24% of minority ethnic students, and 9% of white students, had experienced racial harassment since starting their course
- 3 in 20 university staff and 1 in 20 students left because of racial harassment
- over half of staff reported being ignored or excluded because of their race
There is a wealth of work needed to correct hundreds of years of racial inequality. It is important that this work to dismantle racism and racist practice should not continually fall on minority groups to carry out.
Everyone has their part to play in creating a fair and just society, this page covers a few things that you can do to support race equality
Acknowledge your privilege
Privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. This is not just afforded to persons based on race, but can be related to an individual's wealth, gender, sexual orientation etc.
You may be familiar with the term ‘white privilege’ which is where societal structures favour white people over their Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) peers.
In general, people find acknowledging their privilege difficult or uncomfortable, impossible even. To recognise that events in your life may not entirely be based on what you did but rather who you are, isn't easy.
However until we learn to identify and acknowledge white privilege, even if that is to ourselves, we cannot begin to realise where and why systemic racism exists.
One resistance in accepting the existence of white privilege is feeling that life's path has not been straight-forward or opportunities automatically gifted simply through being white. You may have overcome different barriers, e.g. financial, to arrive at where you are now - however if the difficulties you have faced have not been because of the colour of your skin, then it's likely that white privilege has played a part.
Try some self-reflection, think about key turning points in your life - where may white privilege have played a part?
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh : includes a list of 50 examples of white privilege
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Be an Ally
An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group but who takes action to support that group. Being a race ally means more than not being racist, it means actively being anti-racist.
There are many ways for white people to put their race privilege to support anti-racism. Being an ally is not about speaking for BAME people, being their ‘saviour’ or waiting to be asked to help. Most importantly, the role of an ally is not a photo-op or trend and should not be limited to the month of October
As a starting point, the webpage ‘Be an Ally’ offers the following list of Do’s and Don’ts of being an ally to any minority group:
- Do be open to listening
- Do be aware of your implicit biases
- Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating
- Do the inner work to figure out a way to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems
- Do the outer work and figure out how to change the oppressive systems
- Do amplify (online and when physically present) the voices of those without your privilege
- Do learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable
- Do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions
- Do not participate for the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics” (you don’t need to compare how your struggle is just as bad)
- Do not behave as though you know best
- Do not take credit for the labor of those who are marginalized and did the work before you stepped into the picture
- Do not assume that every member of an underinvested group feels oppressed
There is a wealth of resources which help explain racism and the role of white allies. These are just some of them. If you have more recommendations to add, please let us know:
Glossary of terms by The Aspen Institute
Superior by Angela Saini
Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi
BAMEed Network have printable resources to support race equality in education
In Memory of George Floyd a blog post by Karl Pupé (The Action Hero Teacher), examining why recent events in the US should not be ignored in the UK
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis
So You Want To talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
How to be an antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth Of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
How To Argue With a Racist by Adam Rutherford
Additionally, there are numerous children’s books and resources which help introduce conversations about race to young and older children. By having these conversations earlier, we help to normalise diversity and break down structural barriers in their future.
How to talk to your children about race and racism by Dr Pragya Agarwal and Freddie Harrel for BBC’s Women’s Hour
Books and stories by Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given to outstanding African-American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values
Talk to your white peers about race.
These are conversations which have the power of spreading informed knowledge past the fog of social media.
The article How White People Can Hold Each Other Accountable to Stop Institutional Racism offers advice on how to challenge racist attitudes and behaviours.
Here are just a few public figures and social justice group to follow online which will broaden your understanding of racial inequality and how you can support change.
If you have suggestions for people or groups to add to the list, please let us know
- Black Lives Matter, a global network whose mission is to end violence against Black people and end white supremacy. You can also make a donation to the work
- The Runnymede Trust the UK's leading independent race equality think tank
- Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter, improving representation, progression & success of BAME staff & students in HE:@AdvanceHE_REC on Twitter
- The University of Manchester’s BAME staff network group: @UoM_BAME_SNG on Twitter
- The Conscious Kid on Instagram
- No White Saviors, an advocacy campaign lead by a majority female, majority African team of professionals based in Kampala, Uganda: @NoWhiteSaviors on Instagram or NoWhiteSaviors.org
- Check your Privilege: @ckyourprivilege on Instagram
- Layla Saad: http://laylafsaad.com
- Prof Kalwant Bhopal, Professor of Education and Social Justice, University of Birmingham: @KalwantBhopal on Twitter
- 'Why aren't you a Doctor yet?' podcast by Dr Alex Lathbridge
- #BlackInTheIvory hashtag on Twitter
- Minorities In STEM: @MinoritySTEM on Twitter
You can show your support by signing one of the many online petitions available, requesting action for racial justice. You can find many such calls, just some of which are listed here: