Another black man was killed by police in the US. His name is George Floyd. The protection and security that I take for granted too often operate against black people. This is not confined to the US.
It’s hard to truly hear people when your position and experience is different from their own; from a position of privilege. Their concerns are abstract rather than urgent, understood rather than felt. You agree, but you get distracted by your next crisis. And, of course, vague agreement is the hardest response to challenge: people don’t even have the clarity of an honest ‘no’ to grapple with.
What finally got through to me? Hearing black parents talk about their fears for their children and the difficult conversations they have had with them about their safety and their opportunities in life. Listening to this man. These contributions build a bridge between my own experience and that of others.
“Weariness” is a word I’ve heard black people use a lot in the last few days. And I think I dimly get it. To black colleagues: you have indeed told me this before, politely, patiently and constructively. I can readily understand why weariness turns to anger when it takes another death to wake us up.
With discomfort and guilt comes a heightened sensitivity. “What if I do or say the wrong thing?” Well, doing nothing was doing the wrong thing, so we’re well past that bar. But I also think I understand for the first time how well meaning requests for advice can be so frustrating. “What should I say about this? How should I say it? What should I do?”
Figuring that out is my job. Educating myself is my job. I have too often transferred the burden of tackling racism on to those who suffer from racism. Yes, it is good to listen. When people choose to speak. It is far riskier to act, and be called out, but we need to get used to that.
I have been reluctant to write this because it risks looking performative. This is just another white man writing about himself. And writing this draws attention to an area where I know I have significant flaws. This is not written from a position of virtue. We have made our mistakes and missed our opportunities. But silence also speaks.
From this point forward, I don’t want to talk about what should happen. I don’t want to talk about what other people should do. I only want to talk about what I have done, when I have done it.
I don’t want to be distracted by the next crisis, however important. I don’t want this to be another spike of interest. I want to return to this article in twelve months time with a list of actual actions to tackle racism within my own domain, completed in every month of that year.
This is now uncomfortably on record to hold me to account.
I’ve collated a comprehensive one year update on all our actions here, which incorporates and replaces the previous monthly links.
I’ve changed the title of this blog article to properly reflect the verdict.