In the lead up to our Race Equality Chartermark submission, we want to highlight some of the experiences of those working on race equality and the personal stories that take place behind the scenes. Over the coming months, we will be posting a series of guest blog posts written by those working closely on the submission which demonstrate the way race equality is a part of all of our stories. Our second blog is from HR Case Consultant, Natalie Armitage, where she reflects on her own personal journey since joining the Race Equality Charter Mark Writing Group.
If I could sum up my experience as part of the Race Equality Charter Mark Writing Group (RECMWG) in three words, I would say: positive, enlightening and inspirational.
When first asked to be a part of the RECMWG, my first reaction was excitement.
Absolutely, I really want to get stuck in and learn.
But almost immediately my next reaction was fear with a dash of imposter syndrome.
What could I possibly bring to the table? I am white, I have no real knowledge of this issue- I don’t know what I could add.
What this experience has taught me is that everyone has something to add – we all have a responsibility to learn beyond our own experience and use our voices. Every meeting I attend I learn, grow and feel more motivated to help with the success of race equality at King’s.
Learning to Use My Voice
One of the first meetings we had was a workshop which was part team-building, part action-planning. We spoke about our motivations for joining the group. I shared that my reasons were:
- I have no knowledge of this area and I don’t like to be uninformed;
- I wanted to have a greater impact at King’s;
- I have held 3 different roles at King’s and my experience in the different areas may be useful
This exercise was absolutely essential to my journey in this group, I started to feel that my presence had meaning and that I DO have something to bring to the table. It also helped to build an invaluable sense of shared purpose amongst the team.
Reading for Further Understanding
A critical step in my journey was sharing books on Race Equality. The books I read were:
- ‘Why I am no longer talking to white people about race’ by Renni Eddo-Lodge
- ‘White Privilege: the myth of a post-racial society’ by Kalwant Bhopal.
My default setting to gain knowledge or learn is always to pick up a book, so this was perfect. Renni Eddo-Lodge opened my mind to thoughts I have never had and discussions I have never shared before. This book really gets to the heart of race equality and how this issue affects BME people, in an honest and raw way.
The second book by Kalwant Bhopal made me immensely uncomfortable, in the best possible way. White privilege is something I have never contemplated before, it was soon obvious that this is very real. To confront this has been a real eye-opener, but it gave me the information I needed to feel more confident in discussions and expanded my thinking in ways that are great for the group, but also for me professionally and personally.
Listening to Prepare for Action
The third key moment I want to share is the Dialogue to Action workshop I attended to capture the discussions between staff and students, which will eventually go on to inform King’s Race Equality action plan. This was an amazing experience because taking notes requires you to actively listen.
I moved between groups and became utterly absorbed. The passion and the real-life experiences that were shared were extremely moving. It became clear, in a way I had not seen before, that race equality at King’s is a huge topic and has an effect on so many. It became so obvious that there are voices to be heard and that people are ready for action.
The RECMWG is well-informed and considered in its pursuit of positive change and it has been a real pleasure to contribute to a group filled with passionate and enthusiastic individuals with a shared sense of purpose.