Black History Month: How to be an ally
It’s October already and after the year we’ve had so far, it’s important – now more than ever – that we acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month. I am proud that as a company, Tecknuovo sees the importance of celebrating Black history and raising awareness not only in this month but all year round. In Tecknuovo’s style of upskilling, throughout the month we have a series of lunch and learns for the office scheduled, and lots of resources being circulated for team members to take time to educate themselves on such a prevalent subject.
This article is the first in a series that we are publishing throughout October. Starting with the history of this important movement we will also be showcasing some of tech’s great Black innovators, shining a spotlight on Black Valley – a community dedicated to increasing equity in tech – and finally learning more about how to be actively anti-racist in the workplace.
Black Lives Matter
Last week, I kicked off the sessions with an overview of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the history, how it affects us in the UK and shared personal stories of how my life has been affected because of the colour of my skin. Many are quick to dismiss the movement here in the UK; claiming it’s a US issue; they couldn’t be more wrong. Police brutality, workplace discrimination, white privilege, housing discrimination, institutional and systemic racism all takes place on our own doorstep. It's time to take ownership, acknowledge it exists, and take the necessary steps to begin the work to eradicate it. Below is some info and pointers on how you can become a good ‘ally’ to your friends, colleagues and family members that are BAME.
Where it began
There has always been a movement for Black rights, long before the BLM movement began. Although today it is heavily linked to police brutality, the movement was brought to life in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. Activist Alicia Garza, like so many, was outraged and upset when she posted on social media “Black people I love you, I love us. Our lives matter, Black lives matter”. Patrisse Cullors reposted the final three words #BlackLivesMatter, inspiring Opal Tometi to create social media platforms and the website BlackLivesMatter.com, creating a space for Black activists to connect and talk to each other.
The UK is not innocent
There are significant parallels between the Black British experience and the African American experience. Whether it is the treatment of Black people by the police, the Windrush scandal, the British taxpayer repaying slave owners until 2015 for ‘loss of property’, or the fact that applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds have to send out 80% more applications to get a positive response from an employers than a white person of British origin (with the exact same qualifications & experience). The UK is far from innocent and the first step to being an ally is opening our eyes to discrimination faced by Black people in the UK.
Unless we are prepared to have a discussion about the impact of stereotypes and how they affect decisions that are made within organisations, we are not going to make any progress towards eradicating racism - Binna Kandola
How can I be a part of the movement?
There has been so much information and resources being shared on how to help the movement and be an ally to Black people; how to recognise and use your white privilege for good and generally educate yourselves on the current issues Black people are facing in the UK. Some ways to support require more effort than others but all are equally as important:
- Personal reflection. Take time to analyse your own prejudices, contributions to racism, and relationships with Black people. What language or behaviours are you exhibiting that are problematic for Black people? Are you commenting on their hair, accents, and partaking in generalisations and stereotypes that play into the negative portrayal of Black people? These are called Microaggressions. Whilst your intention may not be to cause harm, they feed into making Black people feel excluded.
- Sign petitions. This seems so simple and it really is, they take a couple of minutes, are free and they work. George Floyd’s killers were arrested thanks to all of the people that sign petitions.
- Educate yourself. If you are not Black, one of the most important things you can do right now is to learn about the Black experience. White people are the dominant oppressive race and our socialisation means that we have only ever been exposed and privy to the White experience. If we truly want to do the work to eradicate racism we need to understand the systems of oppression and issues that affect black people. Read up on why people are protesting and more importantly – do not rely on your Black friends or family to teach you. Google is also free. Some resources include:
- Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap (Netflix)
- Time: The Kalief Browder Story (Netflix)
- When They See Us (Netflix)
- Sitting in Limbo (BBC)
- Donating to causes that need funding. In the UK there are so many different charities and programmes you could donate to including the below:
- Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust – works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to inspire and enable them to succeed in a career of their choice
- Speak out. If you witness something which you think is problematic, whether that’s in the workplace, with friends or in the pub – say something. Hold your friends and organisations accountable. This is potentially the hardest one to do, no one wants to be seen as ‘problematic’. However, if you think it's hard to call someone out for their problematic views, imagine being on the receiving end of them. Being a good ally means standing up for what is right, even when it’s hard.
- Listen. As well as speaking out, take some time to listen and absorb the stories and messages coming from the Black community.
- Support Black creators and businesses. If you’d like to help at an individual level, the best way is to start by supporting Black people’s creative and business endeavours. Employ and promote Black people; buy their books, music or films; amplify their voices by sharing or retweeting; and buy from their shops, restaurants, cafés or bars. In the UK a member of Solid Crew started Black Pound Day. It encourages everyone to replace their usual purchases with products from Black-owned business once a month.
Keep listening and learning
Thank you for reading and your interest in being an ally to Black people. As an organisation we are striving to be a part of the change, committing attention and focussing our energy in the long-term capacity. We hope you will join us in that journey.
Lizzie Harvey, Marketing Manager
I always welcome feedback on what we're doing, if you’d like to reach out to talk about how Tecknuovo are working towards being an ally please contact me below.