On 30 June, the South East region hosted their first online inclusion discussion. Designed to bring all members from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds together with their white colleagues to discuss the very raw feelings that have been thrown into sharp focus with the global spotlight on race and racism.
Patricia Marquis, South East Regional Director who facilitated the discussion said: “Should we have done this sooner? Yes, absolutely, but we felt that now more than ever before there was a need to shine a light on this subject. It’s brutal, there are some painful truths out there, but we were aware that many of our members don’t feel listened to or heard and we want to change that by giving them a platform. I was blown away by their honesty. Their stories made me angry, happy, sad and everything in between. I really feel we are starting a journey to create a powerful movement within the RCN.”
Hamira Ghafoor, a Learning Rep in Oxford was one of the leading figures behind the call. Hamira has worked tirelessly to be a voice for colleagues who face racism and could see that there was a crucial need create opportunities for nurses, students and health care support workers to share their experiences in a safe space.
Hamira explains why moving forward is crucial:
“My own story pushes me to speak out. The painful recounting of experiences by others propels me to speak out. There are so many powerful and deeply disturbing stories out there in the nursing world that need to be heard but often aren’t given the right platforms so that they can be heard, and their experiences acknowledged.
“The impact of Covid-19 pandemic on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, George Floyd’s death and the rise of Black Lives Matter movement have revealed the stark racism that previously seemed invisible to others. Feeling that knee pushing down on their neck and not being able to breathe. That has always been happening, but it can no longer be ignored or denied. Years of anger, hurt and upset which we have learnt to hold down, has bubbled up and now we are moving forward to create an environment for us where we can honestly talk about racism and its impact.
“There are some hard to digest truths that need to be said – Racism isn’t a black, Asian and minority ethnic problem – we did not create it, but we are left to live with it. It is everyone’s duty to learn how to be a good ally, to call out racism when they see it happening, to stand with those who have been and are still going through these terrible experiences. It takes a lot to trust someone with your story and reps, stewards and colleagues need to be part of the conversation in order to be part of the change.
During a WRES (Workforce Race Equality Standards) conversation with white colleagues, when sharing disproportionate black, Asian and minority ethnic experiences, I once got the response ‘well we all have these experiences – so why the focus on black, Asian and minority ethnic only?’ It’s deeply disheartening when black, Asian and minority ethnic experiences get diluted down. We need to acknowledge that these experiences are disproportionately greater. If we have taken the courage to speak up – please listen, learn and work with us to create a positive cultural shift towards an inclusive, rather than an exclusive space.
“Talking about white privilege makes many uncomfortable – some physically repelling away from understanding they have an advantage and how privilege or power has been unevenly distributed in society. If you’ve ended up in a position of power think about how you use that power. What stand will you take? Will you challenge injustice? Will you call out racism? It takes courage but listening to our lived experiences will tell you that ignoring it has a far more detrimental impact.
“I believe that there is so much the RCN can offer from personal support to a safe space to explore actions, opportunities for confidence and skill building, coaching and mentoring to help support black, Asian and minority ethnic members. If there are no black, Asian and minority ethnic leaders in senior positions in workplaces how do you see visible progress? How do you reach out for support? How do you network and get professional support?
“The conversation has started and I’m so pleased as this matters greatly. Everyone needs to be part of the conversation, everyone has a story to tell, we all need to learn from each other. This is a great opportunity to build something positive together; I ask my fellow members – please come with us on this journey; our time is now.”
The next inclusion meeting is on 23 July starting at 6.30pm. South East members can join here: Join Microsoft Teams Meeting