I was inspired to write this article by reading a book by Esther A. Armah (Emotional Justice). On page 101, paragraph two it reads ‘ The first step is to name resistance as manufactured fragility. Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s New York Times best-selling book White Fragility explores how being challenged about race is triggering. We’ve created feel-good-ology vocabulary that once again centres the discomfort of whiteness. What we need is honesty.
This paragraph made me think, is this why unconscious bias training has been quite popular. It is meant to be more concerned about the feelings of whiteness in the context of the book, or in this context, be concerned for the feelings of those who hold negative views.
Unconscious bias training has been around for many years, yet we still have the same issues visible today. You may fall in the camp which says unconscious bias training is the way to go or like me, you believe that unconscious bias training should not be used when dealing with discrimination issues. As many of you may have often heard me say, people who discriminate and confidently verbally abuse others who are not like them, are not asleep when they do it. They are fully aware of their actions and for some, take great pleasure in behaving in a negative way. They also feel it gives them power over others to treat them badly and they do not believe there should be any consequences for their action.
I am a great believer in trying to make a difference. I take action whenever I can to make change. In 2019 Jacqueline A.Hinds and I embarked on designing an ambitions training programme called Transforming Bias change programme. Why, we felt that too many people relied on unconscious bias training as there go to strategy to make change, we believed that it was time for something new and innovative that would work by shifting the narrative from making the person feel comfortable about their bias to dealing with their bias head on. Once we created the programme we decided to come together and form a company Synergised Solutions As Esther’s book suggests, it’s about getting people to ‘do the work’ . It should be hard, it should be uncomfortable at times but the end result should definitely be about individuals making positive change for themselves.
I think we all agree, things must change and action must be taken to create more equity. It is not up-to those who suffer discrimination to ‘do the work’ it is up to the perpetrators to acknowledge their role in causing harm to others. Confronting the bias and the willingness to make an efforts to change should be the goal. The saying, ‘ you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ springs to mind. If people are not willing to confront their own bias, how do they really expect to change.
Esther is right, people need to ‘do the work’ and stop relying on those who are in the firing line of discrimination to make them feel better about themselves. It is not the job of the affected individual to seek out ways to make perpetrators feel comfortable, those affected need to focus on healing and getting support as Esther’s book suggests. I too believe that more focus needs to be on those who have suffered due to other people’s bias. I have read about too many incidences where people go to seek support from their manager or HR and they are turned away and treated poorly, allowing those who are doing the discriminating to continue to do so.
It really is time for innovation, action and real change. Time to stop papering over the cracks and really take control of the situation and safeguard your employees. Don’t forget you have a ‘Duty of Care’.
Emotional Justice is available on Amazon