Following the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black Communities and the Death of George Floyd I have seen Black people suffering in a way I have never seen before. Many of us want to help. But please make sure that you are not making things worse for Black people right now.
Please take 5 mins to read this blog, then read it again, reflect, and modify your behaviour if you need to do so. This message is important for all so it has been included in every knowledge hub post.
Do No Harm
I use to teach disaster management. The first lesson on the first day is integral and I think many white people in the UK need to hear it.
DO NO HARM!!
If you can’t make things better make damn sure you don’t make things worse. Here is some guidance to help you ensure that your actions are not causing harm.
- It’s not Black people’s responsibility to explain racism or their trauma to you. They are already juggling massive trauma & issues you probably don’t see. If you really need their time pay them, acknowledge them. To demand free time and emotional labour is harmful do not do it.
- Do not focus upon yourself, do not compare their experience to your own. Do not expect them to comfort you, for the emotions you experience, whilst hearing about their trauma. This is asking more of them & distracting from the primary issue. It’s harmful do not do it
- If you have been discriminatory in the past or silenced the voices of Black people who tried to speak out, do not now claim to be an ally before addressing this. To do so causes secondary harm and emotional trauma. Do not do this.
- If a Black person tells you about an action or behaviour that they think is unhelpful, harmful or problematic. Do not go straight to centering your self and your emotions. Recognise it is a traumatic time, & even if you don’t like what was said now is not the time to say.
The correct thing to do is to shut up, listen, be supportive and apologise. If you can’t bring your-self to apologise (and you still think they are wrong). Now’s not the time to argue, just say you will go away & reflect, but hear what they are saying & be thankful for their honesty
- Don’t use your Black staff as a new unpaid resource for marketing how not racist you are, do not ask them to write statements of solidarity for you. Especially do not do this if they are low paid, or casual staff who have previously experienced discrimination.
Writing a good quality solidarity statement requires genuine work reflection and commitment. It should be the responsibility of the most powerful actors to undertake this work, asking BAME staff members (who are disproportionately low paid and are most likely to be on zero hour contracts) defeats the end goal and reinforces inequity. The most powerful actors should do the work because they need demonstrate a genuine commitment to addressing inequality if the rest of the organisation is to follow. Here is some guidance on how to write a solidarity statement
- Do not expect all Black staff members to be experts in race, being Black is not a qualification. Recognise them for the job they are doing & the expertise that they have. Don’t use them as your token. If you want an expert on race and inclusion pay for an expert in race.
- It’s not the duty of Black people to absolve you from your own guilt and past failings. The extreme pain being felt right now is real, this does not make past pain any less real or significant. This is not the time to ask for extra forgiveness.
- Do not expect senior Black staff to be unpaid (and unrecognised) mentors to other Black people in your organisation. Every Black person is experiencing trauma right now, they should not be asked to do more or to be responsible for the extra care of other staff members on top of what they are already experiencing
- Recognise that Black people are human. Many Black individuals right now are experiencing extreme trauma due to world events. Rather than asking more of them, provide counselors and offer paid time off. If you really want to show you care even offer this to casual staff.
- Black people’s pain is not there for your entertainment. Sharing experiences of trauma, is in itself traumatic. Recognise this. Do not ask people to recount their trauma if it can be avoided. If it is absoblutely necessary make sure support is on hand perhaps offer to pay for counseling to staff who need it.
- Don’t force Black people to share their experience but if a Black person wants to share their experience, honor this sacrifice. Shut up, listen (genuinely listen!) genuinely reflect what is said & take action accordingly. Thank them for sharing & do not abuse their trust by sharing their story with others without their consent.
- If you witness any of the things above have a word with the person or organisation doing it. Do not leave the burden to respond on the shoulders of the person being harmed. Do not accept and stay silent when you witness harmful behaviour, be an ally