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Over the past few days the British media has been rocked by a conversation held predominantly by two Black women in the United States of America. The discussion highlighted systemic and institutional racism in a specific context that can be transposed to a more general experience of Black women in the workplace and concerns about the representation of Black women in the Uk’s major media outlets.
As an organisation that seeks to support willing clients in a better understanding of the experiences of Black people and other racialised individuals within organisations, here are our thoughts on the language that is being used to describe the actions taken by Harry and Meghan. Words like “bombshell”, “attack”, “grenade” are being frequently utilised to capture the impact of the revelations the momentous interview shared. However the connotations of this wording, is harmful to the wider conversation about race in the UK. A racialised individual (person of colour) speaking up about the negative experiences they’ve had within an institution is not an attack on the institution, it is in fact an invitation to work together to make positive changes that make it a safe space for all.
Other wording that is being frequently used to describe this action is, “selfish”. Meghan and Harry have been accused of being self-serving in their actions at the expense of the stability of the monarchy and the health of its most senior individuals. While we cannot comment on the specific nature of Royalty and the varying needs and pressures of the stakeholders within it, we can advocate for the normalisation of speaking up about race matters, particularly when it is difficult to do so, as a selfless act, one that requires courage and a sense of optimism about the positive impact sharing revelations about your lived experience will make.
We teach racialised individuals within workplaces to think not only about themselves, but also about the next person that a racially motivated injustice could happen to. We teach racialised adults to make a habit of standing up for themselves, because throughout our younger lives in school, university and in our own families we are frequently taught to keep our heads down, minimise our own suffering and to contextualise our pain in light of the impact the label of “racist” could have on the prospects of the aggressor, whether an individual or an institution. These things have to change. Racialised people should not have to consider the fall-out when claiming and providing evidence of racism in their workplace. Racialised people should be believed and supported to contribute to discussions and actions that will lead to positive changes for their future and the future of every racialised person that enters that space after them.