Let's Talk Dirty... why we need to be comfortable with emotive topics (Part One)

Updated: May 27, 2020

In April 2020, I was meant to be giving a TED talk about inclusion. But like so many my plans were changed at the last minute due to COVID-19. So I thought I would share parts of my talk through a series of blog entries - I hope you enjoy.

Racism without racists, sexism without sexists and the guilt of privilege.

How naivety, denial and the paralysis of fear, aid the persistence of inequality.

We need to be able to talk about racism.

We need to be able to discuss sexism.

We need to be able to be honest about privilege and power.

We need to be able to openly discuss without fear issues of discrimination, and the barriers and limiters covertly placed on underrepresented groups.

We need to be able to challenge the ‘default truth’ that a society crafted by a majority, socially conditions us all to believe.

We need to do this with kindness in our hearts and at the centre of all interactions.

Why? Because inclusivity benefits everyone and our future depends on it.

Words like racism, sexism, privilege, diversity have become ‘dirty’ words. They are ‘toxic’. Words to run away from rather than towards.

And I am often told it is my role to help underrepresented groups to 'find their voice', support them and help them ‘fit in’ and achieve. I fundamentally disagree with this.

Minority groups already have a voice, and they are using it. What we have to do is enable them to truly be heard and for the majority to actively listen and willingly change the system so it is agile and able to ‘fit’ us all.

In this series of blog posts, we will look at how, where and why discriminative attitudes, systems and biases impact on people who are different from the majority and affect us all negatively.

We will discover this primarily within the areas of race and privilege, and understand this within the workplace and university contexts.

We will also look at why it is vital to improve the language and attitudes we have when talking about discrimination and start having those difficult conversations about inequality, in a progressive and positive way.

Be aware:

I will state that the sheer nature of the content could potentially be triggering and may cause some unease / self-reflection. Please practice self-care and kindness to all.

How does inclusion benefit everyone? And why do our futures depend on it?

Global impact:

  • Global challenges need to be solved, and in order to do this we need to understand the challenges of this world from different perspectives. This will then allow us to play an active role and benefit from global commerce.

  • Governments, businesses, organisations, institutions are all being left vulnerable to becoming isolated and irrelevant if they continue to be an echo chamber of a predominately white, male, privileged world view. This view no longer reflects the diverse global experience or needs.

  • There is a need to understand countries and continents beyond the 'single story' that we are told through the media and privileged views of history. Our current frame of reference is flawed as a result of this and means we undertake inappropriate actions fuelling poorly thought through initiatives and creating the 'white saviour complex'.

  • The data gap occurs as a large percentage of our foundation research is based on white male data. This feeds our unconscious biases and results in wider discrimination such as within artificial intelligence and algorithms.

  • Society is getting impatient for those with power to 'catch up'. The voice of social movements like #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter becoming more intense, and their commitment to change rightly increasing.

  • As a backlash to this there is more resistance to change resulting in hostility and forced repression, concluding in the world missing out on great talent.

Impact on Universities and businesses:

  • Global students need to be able to work in diverse teams. The understanding of cultural differences and the positive impact of difference and unique perspectives, needs to be encouraged as does challenging any limiting beliefs.

  • Drivers for change are increasing and areas such as research funding are now dependent on creating an inclusive environment. This will only continue to grow.

  • Researchers need to understand diverse range of problems that application of their research could solve.

  • Great talent and potential students go elsewhere

  • Financial risk of NDA’s and fines becomes a greater threat

  • Reputational risk limits attraction of a diverse workforce due to not being an inclusive environment where anyone can thrive to be their best self

  • And, how relevant can a non-diverse setting be in 10 years’ time?

So… we need to stop:

Who are we harming by not engaging in honest open discussions about discrimination?

We are only harming our future selves.

Passive aggressive rebuttals, demands for more evidence, excuses, justifying inequalities, kicking issues into the long grass etc. are all delaying tactics for what is obvious if we just open our eyes and listen…

In part two of this series of blog posts, we will look at the specific area of racism.

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