George Floyd’s anniversary: the progress of anti-racism

On the 25 May 2022 it will have been 2 years since George Floyd was murdered. Here Addison Barnett, Head of Inclusion and Diversity Services (South), reflects on the impact that his murder has had on anti-racism and highlights the ongoing work that is needed to bring about structural change, and build anti-racist cultures.

The spark of anti-racism

On the 25th May 2022 it will have been two years since George Floyd was murdered. What has changed? A lot, and not enough.

Looking back, I can see the wave of focus and energy that sparked from that moment. We saw protests, conversation and action like never before. As an inclusion and diversity professional I saw race as a topic finally come to the surface after being tip-toed around for years.

Of course, as with any tectonic change, after the initial shift the energy slowed. As the pandemic continued and we moved through 2021, I worried that the momentum would taper off. The news cycle had moved on, other subjects were making the headlines.

I’m glad to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised: in some quarters Black Lives Matter was a flash in the pan, a marketing exercise that missed the opportunity for structural change, but in many places it wasn’t. George Floyd’s murder opened a door that for many can now never be shut.

How we continue the anti-racism work now

Two years later, the real work begins. The hard bit: making this real, embedding it into how we do what we do. For the long term.

Anti-racism isn’t just a list of ‘what we do’ (or worse, what we promise to do but never follow through on), it’s who we are. And changing who we are is difficult, and it takes time.

In June 2020 some friends and I setup a fortnightly anti-racism book club. We wanted to put our energy into learning and growing, and this regular invite kept us accountable. I have changed for the better as a result of this consistent, regular work.

Now two years in, we’ve just finished Emma Dabiri’s ‘What White People Can Do Next’. Emma’s central message is that we need to work together, in coalition, to make change happen. And we need to be consistent: it’s how we are, not what we do.

Allyship and anti-racism

I recently attended the Black Inclusion Week webinar ‘Allyship: together for a better tomorrow’, a panel event hosted by Inclusive Employers. I saw Black excellence in action, I saw honesty and emotion, and I saw White allies being vulnerable and honest. It gave me hope and energy.

It reminded me of Emma Dabiri’s message: we need to be in coalition with each other. We can’t do this alone – even introverts like me! – we have to work together.

It’s not unusual for inclusion and diversity professionals to be the sole person responsible for inclusion, and the cultural change that comes with it. It can be a challenging and lonely job.

One of the most rewarding parts of my role is working with my members, being on their side and showing them that they’re not alone, that together we can make change happen.

I also encourage my clients to think about who they can work with to make inclusion an everyday reality: who are their allies? Who is engaged, who can they influence? Essentially: who can you work in coalition with?

Anti-racism requires structural change

Anti-racism can be one of the ‘golden threads’ of inclusion, woven into every part of an organisation.

In our organisations, we need to think bigger than an awareness day, week or month. What are the programmes that will bring about transformational change? That build accountability and connection?

I have been lucky enough to support my members to run reverse (often called ‘reciprocal’) mentoring and inclusion allies programmes that have made a huge impact on their respective organisations. Something magical happens when people connect as individuals, have honest conversations, and work together.

I hope that George Floyd’s legacy leads to the long term structural change that desperately needs to happen. I really believe it can, but we all need to play our part to secure his legacy.  

How can Inclusive Employers help with anti-racism and structural change?

As part of our commitment to anti-racism, Inclusive Employers developed a toolkit to support anti-racism in the workplace – Building an anti-racist culture. This practical toolkit also includes a series of nine ‘how to’ guides, that are available to buy separately.

If you are a members of Inclusive Employers please talk to your account manager about how you can begin or progress anti-racism work in your organisation. You will also find a variety of race related resources in our Members’ Area, including our Black History Month package.