My Journey on Anti-Racism - David Gent, CEO Active Humber

25-05-2021

The 25th May marks the anniversary of the death of George Floyd and the last year has been a year where so many of us have questioned the issue of racism in our community.

My journey on anti-racism became a lot clearer when I watched a video called - The lie that invented racism- John Biewen. 

John challenges the ‘white folk’ not to see this as a game where the ‘good black folk’ are fighting against ‘the evil white supremist’ with us ‘good white folk’ sitting in the stands cheering on the ‘good black folk’. He argues that by sitting in the stands we are implicit today to the continuation of racism. I realised I was in the stands, as I think many of us across the Humber area are and how do we get people like me out of the stands, into the game and onto the field and team of ‘race equality’.

I started to watch and read about race, and in particular, the works of Robin Diangelo and John Biewen. They were much more powerful to me than reading and watching others. If I am being totally truthful, because Robin and John are white, they look like me, they have a background like me, they talk like me, their life experience is like mine, etc and they are forcing me as ‘good white folk’ to really question my ‘whiteness’. Not in a negative or guilty way but a realisation that my ‘lens’ on the world is not one that the majority enjoy. It is not nice or comfortable, but it is a good experience.

I realised we must all stop thinking of this as being a black problem as it is a white and black problem. 

With an emphasis for people like me, on sorting the whiteness of the problem.

I read this on social media.

The killing of George Floyd made it impossible for us to sugar-coat, rationalise or ignore the realities of our world. Unfortunately, so many people, including too many people in leadership positions, did not have the uncomfortable conversations they needed to have. not because they are bad people, but because they did not know how to start an uncomfortable conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing or accidentally making any tension worse. We need to learn to have uncomfortable conversations.

Here is a guide on how to start a difficult conversation 

It goes something like this, “I need to have a difficult conversation with you. I am very nervous to have this conversation because I fear I will say the wrong thing or accidentally trigger you. But this conversation is too important to avoid, even if the result is bumpy and imperfect.”

I have also learnt that the beauty of anti-racism is that you do not have to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to find racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. I think in myself is a good place to start.

If it is difficult and uncomfortable for me to talk about racism, then I imagined what it must be like for those who must live it, fought it all their lives and it would appear; will continue to face it for the rest of their lives. The time is now for me and others to share that burden.

I hear the comment that ‘there is only a small ethnic minority population here'.

The Humber is one of those places when you say it as a percentage. When you turn the percentage into an actual number of people, it is in the thousands, as it is for every county in England. How can we stand by and let thousands suffer racism?

I know that the support structures are much less and the isolation greater for those facing racism in places like the Humber than exist in the larger urban areas. I can help now to reduce that isolation and build the support needed.

What I decided to do is below and is the minimum on what I should be doing.

  1.  I am learning that to be anti-racist is to sit in the feeling of discomfort and take the time to process it.
  2.  Learning how to talk about race - sharing resources that explain how to help - listening to black people, talking to white people – having the race-centred conversations honestly with colleagues.
  3. Knowing that racism is not binary – and as a white person I must stop the microaggressions I witness each and every time.
  4. And most importantly supporting people who face racism and becoming a true ally. Not from the stands, but actively on the pitch.

Race Equality Commitment

Active Humber along with all the other Active Partnerships across England has signed up to a race equality commitment and this will direct our work on race and race equality over the next twelve months and beyond. Please do get in touch with myself or any one of my colleagues if you want to discuss this further.

I hope you will join with me and others in tackling racism across the Humber area.

Thank you,

David Gent

CEO Active Humber