Yesterday the funeral of George Floyd took place. As has been extensively covered in the news, George died after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, USA.
I have been reflecting on what has happened, and continues to happen, with a sense of anger and sadness. It is a reminder in the most extreme form that we have a long way to go to achieve race equality. But the events of the past few weeks also shows that there is reason to be hopeful because we are now talking and taking action.
It is really important for us all to take some time to consider these events and how we can each take responsibility to champion equal treatment. You may have heard me say that what we walk by and tolerate is what we put up with (I say it about lots of things!). Everyone can play an active role in creating a more equal society. For those of us in leadership positions, there is a specific role for us to set the tone in our organisations and our wider communities.
George died 4,000 miles away, but examples of different treatment exist here in the UK, and if we are honest, here in our communities and organisations across Humber, Coast and Vale.
I know, because I’ve experienced it in my life. My dad being asked on a bus where he “got me from”, being told in school that I should get back in my banana boat, and to this day I appear to regularly end up being one of the people randomly selected for a search at airports and events.
I’ve heard of similar experiences from colleagues. For example, patients who say they don’t want to be treated by a black person. Or colleagues undergoing a risk assessment being told that they were having it because “people like you live in crowded houses”. Or colleagues who spend time with religious pursuits at work being criticised for how long or how often this is done.
Our BAME colleagues deserve better than this. In saying Black Lives Matter, nobody is saying they’re more important, or that others aren’t. But we have to be honest with ourselves: black people aren’t treated equally, and the only way to stop this is through all of us.
I recorded a message earlier this week to colleagues within my organisation, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, which you can view here.
Before writing it, I asked our BAME Staff Network what they thought I should be saying on behalf of the Trust. One comment was for us to state that HDFT is opposed to prejudice, oppression and hatred, and particularly to racially-motivated violence. Others were to recognise the prejudice that black colleagues face, that it is not enough to say “I am not racist” to fully support and engage with the anti-racism movement, and to listen to people’s lived experiences in order to learn.
I completely agree with these comments from colleagues. George’s murder has ignited a call for the end to racism and injustice across the world. If it is to be more than just a call, we have to look at ourselves, not at others. We are all part of the solution to end this. It is no longer good enough for us to be neutral in this.
As a Partnership of organisations and leaders, we need to say clearly and repeatedly that here in Humber, Coast and Vale, Black Lives Matter.