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Updated: Mar 30

Here, I need to uncover my Marxist roots. Please don’t switch off! Some of these ways of understanding the world and society are vital in our fight to defend EDI.


Let’s not begin from consciousness – individual attitudes, beliefs, perceptions. What shapes these are societal beliefs, culture, the stories that are developed to explain why things are as they are. And what shapes these are the social structures and institutions that have grown over centuries. And underpinning all this is the economic foundation of our society.


The problem is that the vast majority of EDI effort has been directed at individual consciousness – awareness raising, increasing knowledge, appealing to hearts and minds, as if ending racism is just a matter of changing people’s minds. Many people will have changed their minds over the decades, but that does nothing to change the structures and power relations that are built on racism. Our economy was created on the backs of African slaves, whose labour enabled the industrialisation of Britain and the wage-slavery of workers ‘at home’. Women were kept in unpaid labour to raise the next generation of workers and anyone who transgressed this ‘tradition’, by being different or ‘unproductive’, was a threat to be repressed.


“But this was hundreds of years ago, it’s different now”. The methods of exploitation have changed and adapted but the outcome is the same – millions in former colonies locked in the stranglehold of World Bank / IMF slavery and millions at home, consigned to financial (and literal) ghettos.


‘Enlightening’ people, in itself, does nothing to change this foundation, faced with the vested interests of the forces that want to maintain it. In fact, if we are only seeking to change hearts and minds, we get locked into a cycle of hope and disappointment that only creates cynicism and inaction. To give one example: Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 led to the Macpherson Inquiry, which concluded that the Met Police Force was institutionally racist. It felt like a turning point and was a powerful impetus for The Equality Act and the Public Sector Equality Duties. When, 30 years later, Baroness Casey’s review concluded that the Met was not only still institutionally racist, but also misogynist and homophobic, many hearts sank - nothing has changed! What’s the point? EDI training for officers, a few police LGBTQ+ campaigns, even new laws were not enough, because the essential social purpose, structures and, therefore, culture of the Met remained untouched.


I have compressed a great deal of history and political / social thought into these few lines – if you’d like to expand it, I can thoroughly recommend this book (among many others):

“What is Anti-racism” by Arun Kundnani.


What has all of this to do with us, as professional people, trying to create fairer, more dynamic organisations? I’ll come to that in my next post.


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