Running Race

I recently completed a half marathon for charity. A year ago I couldn’t run for a bus without physical pain, let alone running non-stop for two hours. However with blisters, sweat and tears I did it!

It got me thinking of things we do outside of our comfort zone.

For example, challenging personal prejudices. This can be painful as it involves change. People don’t like change. Having run (no, not that kind) training sessions for 10 years, I witness it every day. I’ll mix up delegates several times during the session, then at the end they can sit anywhere to complete their Action Notes and Evaluations. More often than not they return to exactly the same seat they started in!

But we aren’t just talking about sitting somewhere different. Or are we? A different environment can alter our view. Challenge what we thought we knew.

But where does it start? Awareness of what we do, often automatically, is key. Take racism for example. I mean literally, please take it. Far, far away. It doesn’t belong here. And yet it still exists.

Racism could be any of the following: seeing one race as superior to another , making negative assumptions based on someone’s race, being treated less favourably due to race.

The Institute of Race Relations produced a recent report and quoted the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2011/12. Over 100 crimes per day were racially or religiously aggravated, with many more unreported incidents likely.

While delivering Equality & Diversity training sessions I hear comments from people in all sectors demonstrating potentially racist views, often unwittingly. We create a safe environment where these views are discussed openly. Working with actors to enable understanding of different characters (such as the victim, the perpetrator, the witness), delegates explore their own prejudices and assumptions.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions.” Allport’s Scale of Prejudice explains this progression well.

Here is a good way of challenging prejudice in others. Ask them what they mean. Even better, firstly repeat back their words. For example, “When you said ‘this area isn’t safe anymore, it’s overrun with gyppos’, what did you mean?” This was from a taxi driver on the way to an Equality & Diversity training session. No, he wasn’t a participant – which was a shame. I often find the best way to prepare for what delegates may be like in your E&D session is to ask provocative questions of the cabbie. So to be fair, I did provoke him. But was he being fair?!

By asking an individual to explain their comment, it stops them for a moment. Perhaps even makes them think. And remember “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Ok I’ll stop with the quotes or there is a danger I’ll turn into one of those naff posters adorned by many a work place in the 1990’s.

There are many organisations making steady progress regarding race. But is it enough? Are you convinced your organisation is not discriminating in any way, directly or indirectly, based on an individual’s race? Are you sure your own views are in line with the moral, social and ethical norms?

Are we able to be honest with ourselves when it comes to discrimination? Or do we simply keep running away?

Ali Adolph, The Garnett Foundation

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