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Editorial - This You?

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So many articles, opinion pieces, editorials and features have been written about the seismic, horrific, and historic events of recent weeks that it’s a wonder anything remains to be said.

Black Lives Matter. Over the past month, I’ve signed petitions, endorsed open letters, and voiced solidarity with courageous professionals standing up to challenge the hitherto status quo.

I’ve felt and witnessed anger, fear, frustration and had painful and illuminating conversations with my young adult children, my friends, and my colleagues.

I’ve felt a rollercoaster of emotions experiencing this crisis in race relations being played out amid a global pandemic and within a country that seems ever more divided.There’ve been days when my brain has been so scrambled that I no longer know what to feel.

But I do know what tipped me over the edge.


Last month, my daughter pointed out to me the practice of posting ‘This you?’ on social media. When people or corporations post messages of support for black lives, responses saying ‘This you?’ are posted, along with screen shots of said companies or individuals saying or doing the opposite. In some cases, companies proclaiming their support for diversity have served only to invite the response ‘This you?’ accompanied by a screen shot of their all white (and usually all male)board of directors or highly problematic past statements and actions. Corporations, celebrities, and industry leaders have found to their cost that posting a black tile or BLM hashtag without ever having done the work of driving racial equality is not a good idea.

Organisations that have made glacial progress in levelling the racial playing field within their ranks have been quick to pat themselves on the back.

With so many of our young people protesting on the streets, young and old professionals alike are demanding a change that’s long overdue.

Because while this increased consciousness about race on the part of business is welcome, let’s not pretend that there haven’t been reports, reviews and studies carried out over the years providing incontrovertible data about discrimination against black people, and that recommendations on how to dismantle the systems supporting discrimination have been ignored, side-lined and wilfully misinterpreted.

If corporate tweets by white-led organisations could fix racism, we’d no longer have a problem. But black squares on Twitter and exquisitely mistimed self-congratulatory soundbites – occasionally interspersed with carefully worded commercial messages - won’t work. Neither will perhaps well-meaning but nevertheless patronising invitations for black people to present themselves to be considered for inclusion – yes, you know who you are. Organisations that have made glacial progress in levelling the racial playing field within their ranks have been quick to pat themselves on the back. Which is why those failing to improve their paltry numbers of black executives in this, our multicultural society, have rightfully been met with ‘This you?’

Who Do You Value?

My message to businesses and leaders who play fast and loose with the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ is that posting ‘This you?’ isn’t solely about playing gotcha. Times are changing and you must see this as a call to reflect more deeply than a soundbite.

So, where do we go from here?

Through the noise of the past weeks, three things have become apparent to me:

1. A change has come. No matter how many people wish this moment of racial momentum slowed or stopped, it’s too late.
2. This racial crisis has received support from genuine and powerful allies of all races, moving it from a black issue to a human one.
3. If you’ve been part of the problem, here’s your chance to acknowledge your own complicity, move beyond vague unmeasurable commitments and contribute to the solution with clear actions.

For those in category three - the industries, companies and organisations that fully deserve being called out for their hypocrisy - this is your opportunity to do better.

But please don’t look to those experiencing the racism, hostility, stereotyping, side-lining and – worst of all – gaslighting (as if we didn’t all know what was going on) to shoulder the burden of making you better. You know what to do. You’ve always known what to do. You just didn’t feel the need to do it, until not doing it became a risk to your reputation and bottom line.

The Right Side of History

My usual advice to leaders who say they ‘don’t see colour’ is to suggest they get their eyes checked. People come in all shades of colour, and diversity means precisely that you see everybody for their differences - and include them anyway.

If you are a leader and not sure if your organisation belongs in category 3, check the racial health of your business. Evaluate whether your recruitment practices are truly inclusive, examine the profiles of your leadership teamsand whether they reflect society or even your customers. Most critically, conduct an honest, no-repercussions discussion with your black and multicultural employees - and listen. They will tell you how to get out of category 3 if you’re willing to do the work.

As Lenin said there are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen. Change has come, and the challenge of racial equality has been posed to anyone who wants to be on the right side of history.

Those who fail to do what’s needed to meet this challenge are best advised to keep their performative platitudes, hollow soundbites and insincere virtue signalling messages offline.

Do otherwise,and you are guaranteed to be met with ‘This you?’


Managing Editor of ReConnect Africa and author of the novels ‘Imperfect Arrangements’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

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