We would like to convey our pride & admiration in the England Men’s team, they embody the inclusiveness we strive to create and sustain. So, you can imagine our collective disappointment of the racism and unforgivable actions that followed after their loss.
Were we surprised? No.
Whether through our team’s personal experiences or the situations we are often called in to resolve we are all too aware of the triple standard for minority groups vs the majority group. The lion share of minorities especially those of African and Caribbean descent in the UK, their respect and safety is predicated on their success, particularly in sports and entertainment. Their success emphasises the precariousness of how they’re perceived and their welfare.
The hateful harassment that drowns those young black men is not a one-off explosion, it is the daily experience for many even those in your own organisations. It is important to recognise that this isn’t just about football. It happens in workplaces all the time. The racism may be more subtle, more implicit, but it happens. People of colour are rarely praised for their achievements compared to their white counterparts however they are frequently ignored, vilified even, blamed significantly more when things go wrong. Imagine knowing that and then being asked to perform your job? How well do you believe you would perform knowing there are people waiting to berate you?
Southgate knew this too. The reality of being an inclusive leader is not an easy one, it takes grit and a great deal of strength. Strength to justify your decisions, strength to protect your team and strength to do something different. Southgate was conscious of that hence in his post-match interview he shut down any blame on his players especially the young black men because he knew in the morning the post-match experience his white British players were going to have would be immensely different to the mixed heritage, British Caribbean & British African players experience.
As leaders when we build our teams, our talent never arrives in the form of pure excellence. It is our purpose to cultivate an environment, in which we can curate greatness and bring out the best in our teams. That takes time and requires us to build authentic relationships. There is a great deal of strategy and endurance that goes into that process but what do you do when external factors are harming your team, especially ones that you may have not experienced?
The hardest part for a lot of sectors is no longer hiring diverse talent or finding it, it is retaining it. The reality is many do not know how to create an inclusive environment because they have never experienced one, we are all still figuring that out.
On Monday morning we openly discussed how people of colour would feel in their jobs after these events? How many people do you think have mentally prepped themselves to shrug off distasteful comments for the rest of the week? The bullies leaving monkey emojis and vile comments towards a 19-year-old Saka on his Instagram account, they were not just football hooligans but senior professionals at well-known firms. How do you think that impacts people of colour, knowing people who are in authoritative positions hold the same beliefs as these hooligans?
Can you begin to digest how this impacts their confidence in applying to your companies, sharing their ideas with you or speaking up when they know something isn’t right?
Reflecting on the dynamics of England team, it really hit home for us that everyone involved can have the best intentions and create the ideal inclusiveness however the key saying it takes a village to raise a child came to our minds. Inclusiveness only thrives and creates the innovation that we believe in when everyone participates.
However, as a leaders we know the commitment and conviction it takes to make inclusiveness a reality. Especially when in the backdrop there are various antagonising factors such as government reports claiming racism doesn’t exist in the manner we think it does and far too many examples of people not being held accountable for enabling and participating in all that hinders us from progression.
This moment has reaffirmed our purpose as a collective. We acknowledge it is an uneasy reality to continually confront and reform these harmful perspectives. Regardless of the disheartening realities we currently see, we have the tenacity to make those changes until writing articles like these becomes a thing of the past.