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Visibility for the invisible

by Valentina Aiello 2 years ago in controversies

Black Lives Matter is not a PR exercise

📷@JonTyson

“If something is invisible to you then you will never see or understand something that is visible to other people”...

There are many personal incidents that I can recall from childhood to adulthood where I have experienced explicit and covert racism.

It is important for people who have never experienced the above to LISTEN when someone is recounting their lived experiences. It is not a cue for people to interject and try to devalue and diminish someone else’s personal experiences.

Some examples of these microaggressions that I can recall include frequently being approached by strangers (who simultaneously invade my personal space) and ask me questions such as “where are you from”, “is that your real hair”, “ is that all yours or extensions”. This unnecessary curiosity to approach someone you don’t know with an assumed authority is intrusive and disrespectful.

I can recall working in a company where the majority of the staff were all white. I was one of two people of colour. It was not uncommon for me to be confused with this other person depsite us not even looking alike, we had completely different facial features, hair and names.

I could never understand how in a workplace of over 100 white staff they were unable to differentiate between the only two people of colour yet they seemingly had no problem differentiating between the 100 plus white people working there.

This dangerous behaviour of stereotyping individuals as a group identity is the exact kind of prejudice that we need to deconstruct.

In order to dismantle discriminatory and prejudicial systems which oppress black people we must acknowledge, listen and act.

Despite clear evidence that systemic racism is prevalent throughout the world there are some people who still refuse to even acknowledge that racial disparities exist, because they have never experienced these inequalities themselves. If something is invisible to you then you will never see or understand something that is visible to other people.

I have seen many comments from people in the UK saying racism isn’t the same here as it is in America or it doesn’t exist in the UK. These are the same people who have never been discriminated against, treated unfavourably, denied job opportunities or overlooked for promotions simply because of the colour of their skin.

Recently there has been a flurry of companies and people posting in support of black lives matter purely as a PR exercise. This behaviour is disingenuous and nothing more than contrived performative action.

They masquerade themselves as supporters of black lives matter when in actuality they are part of the problem.

These companies have no diversity in their own workforces and for years have historically been very comfortable in deliberately excluding, not hiring or promoting black people. Only now they are seeking to pledge diversity after years of casual and accepted racism.

People, brands and companies need to have serious conversations about their internal practices regarding the lack of representation and visibility of black people in management and senior positions. There are far too many instances where black people ( despite having the requisite qualifications and experience ) are overlooked for promotions and deliberately kept in lower level positions.

A lot of companies have stated that they are going to do better. This is an insult because the exclusion of black people is something that they have been fully aware of and have continued to perpetuate.

We need transparency and we need to see statistics because pledging to do something is not the same as actually making changes. These companies need to have conversations and training with their HR and management teams about racism and bias as these are the gatekeepers preventing black people from being employed.

controversies

Valentina Aiello

Read next: First Things First: Somebody's Got to Make a Change

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