Chané Barnes, boomsatsuma’s cultural outreach specialist, added her experiences and views participating in one of Interculture’s Black History Month online panels, October 2020.
Interculture is a Bristol based Community Interest Company, working with local communities to provide specialised intercultural training, events and consultancy. COVID-19 meant their panels became online events, with viewers tuning in to watch on zoom.
The panel featured four black professional women sharing their experiences and personal observations of being black in the workplace, discussing how repeated negative interactions impacted their negative health. The aim was to inform business owners and managers about the
problem and look at solutions to help them create a better future.
Alongside Chané were Charmaine Lawrence: Entrepreneur, Rap Artist and CEO of Mogul Minded and N9NE Cosmetics, Judie Campbell: NHS Mental Health & Charity Volunteer and Jaqs Graham: Finance Specialist, Humanitarian and Script Writer for TV, Film and Theatre.
It was very quickly agreed that there is still a problem in a lot of workplaces and the issues are very similar across all sectors. The key issues experienced by the panelists were:
- Not being able to be themselves
- Being interpreted as something they’re not
- Subjected to stereotypical preconceptions
The other three women recounted how repeated negative experiences had blunted their confidence in expressing themselves when on the receiving end of prejudice, which Chané, being the youngest panelist, has learned not to tolerate, she comments:
“Previous generations have paved the way for people like me to have a strong, confident voice. I have been exposed to prejudice on multiple occasions, but whereas in the past people have ‘put up and shut up’; I have the strength of my convictions, having heard their experiences, to do the right thing and leave. While I am now working in a supportive environment, it is clear there are plenty of workplaces that are not so positive.”
It was discussed that many companies have policies written, with zero tolerance towards racism or sexism, but they are only any good when backed up with proactive action. Having a policy is an essential first step in creating a better workplace, but it needs to be revisited by employees, monitored by management, with action taken if there are transgressions.
None of the panelists expect a ‘quick fix. They agreed that organisations need to invest time and resources to bring about change and it was questioned whether there is always enough will to follow up good intentions particularly given the financial pressures and changes in working practices the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced.
Chané concludes: “We all felt that too many people feel comfortable with where things are, as it is a minority who are affected, so not enough people in management are aware or care enough to drive change. Having said that we feel that through conversations like this and the awareness raised across Black History Month we can encourage more businesses to be progressive and do just that.”