I was recently interviewed about my book Equality vs Equity tackling issues of Race in the Workplace by Sharon Amesu, Founder of She Leads for Legacy, and one question that Sharon asked me has stuck in my mind.
“How am I able to be unapologetic about my perspectives on race in the workplace?”
I answered her in the moment, but three years after the killing of George Floyd, I thought it was time to reflect further on her question.
As a Black woman living in the UK, the killing of George Floyd has had a profound impact on me. Three years after his death, I am still processing the horror and injustice of what happened. The fact that a Black man, who was handcuffed and unarmed, could be murdered in broad daylight by a police officer is a chilling reminder of the systemic racism that exists not only in America but also in the UK.
Although the killing of George Floyd happened in America, it was a wake-up call for many people across the world, showing that racism is a global issue that affects Black people everywhere. The subsequent protests that took place across the globe in response to his death were a powerful display of solidarity and a call for change.
I am acutely aware of the racism that exists in the UK, from racial profiling to microaggressions in the workplace, the everyday racism that Black people face can be exhausting and painful. While the UK may not have a history of police brutality towards Black people on the scale of America, the institutional and structural racism that is ingrained in our society is just as insidious and damaging.
Three years on, we have seen progress in some areas, but there is still a long way to go. It’s encouraging to see more people having conversations about systemic racism and what needs to be done to address it. In my own company, we have been pleased to work with organisations that are truly committed to anti-racism and moving the dial on inclusion. However, we need to see accelerated action and change. We need to see a commitment from governments, institutions, and individuals to actively dismantle racism and create a more equitable society for all.
Returning to Sharon’s question, you may have noticed that in the wake of this tragedy, many Black people starting to embrace an unapologetic attitude. By unapologetic I mean being proud of who they are and what they stand for, regardless of what others think.
In reaction to this unapologetic attitude, I’ve received emails from white people who are uncomfortable with the stance of their colleagues, they’ve called it ‘shouty’ or taken it as a personal attack, but it’s mostly not.
The truth is that many Black people feel that they have been conditioned to believe that they need to apologise for their very existence, and they have chosen to stop doing that.
For us, that means not apologising for our identity, our culture, or our experiences. It means being confident and assertive, and not letting anyone make us feel ashamed. Being unapologetic is important for Black people because it allows us to be ourselves without fear of judgment or rejection. It gives us a sense of power and control over our lives. It also helps us to connect with others who share our experiences and beliefs.
Being unapologetic is also important for the wider society because it helps to challenge racism and discrimination. When Black people are unapologetic about their blackness, we are sending a message that we will not be silenced or erased. We are demanding to be seen, heard, and respected.
My journey is an ever-evolving one, but here are some steps that I have taken to step into being my unapologetic self:
- Identifying my values. What is important to me? What I you believe in? Knowing my values means that I can start to live your life in a way that is true to myself.
- Setting boundaries. Not being afraid to say no to things that I don’t want to do. Giving myself permission to put my own needs first sometimes.
- Speaking up for myself. Not being afraid to stand up for what I believe in, even if it’s not popular. My voice matters.
- Being proud of who I am. Not apologizing for my identity, my culture, or my experiences. Remembering that I am worthy of love and respect, just the way I am.
Living an unapologetic life is not always easy. But it is a liberating and empowering way to live. Some things that are helping are:
- Surrounding myself with community. Surrounding myself with people who support and affirm me.
- Practising self-care. Taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually is essential for living an unapologetic life.
- Being patient with myself. Learning that change doesn’t happen overnight.
In my opinion, living an unapologetic life is a journey, not a destination. It’s about learning to love and accept yourself, flaws and all. It’s about being proud
The rise of unapologetic Black people in the UK is a sign of progress. It is a sign that Black people are no longer willing to be silent about their experiences of racism and discrimination. We are using our voices to challenge stereotypes, demand change, and empower others. We are unapologetic about our blackness, our humanity, and our experiences. We are using our platform to speak truth to power and to make a difference in the world. This can only be a good thing.
Final thought… I found writing this piece triggering and emotional, just reviewing images to choose to accompany it brought a tear to my eye, do check in with your Black colleagues on the 25th of May and have some empathy. Some may want to talk about it and others won’t but do provide them with the opportunity
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