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NICOLA Harrison

I’ve always considered myself an anti-racist. I was exposed as a very young child to the racial inequalities in the world because my best friend at primary school was a refugee from Zimbabwe. I was chosen to look after her and settle her in. She was the first person I remember loving outside of my family and we became inseparable. So  I have always called out overt racism – racist language on the bus or on the street, people making comments or ‘jokes’ - I’ve always spoken out.

But. This isn’t enough. Because it wasn’t until the last few months that I’ve realised just how intrinsic and pernicious racism is in all our institutions. In the way the world is stacked. I haven’t had to. I don’t live it every day. I’d noticed in passing growing up how most toys were white. I realise in passing that plasters are ‘flesh coloured’ for white people not other ethnicities and I’ve never challenged it. It’s cosy to live in a world that is stacked in the favour of your own ethnicity. That’s why education is so important because it is the job of the privileged (and by that I mean only colour privilege not economic, emotional, educational) to call out injustices in the systems that protect us. Why should we sit back and leave it to the people who are constantly having to speak out to protect themselves? They’ve been doing it for centuries and it must be exhausting. I believe my education was whitewashed. The British Empire and colonialism seen as a success. If we are taught ALL aspects of history that Empire State of mind can be eroded. I really think that is an important key to recognising the humanity of all nations, all ethnicities and where we stop perpetuating implicitly that white is somehow best. It’s also important to educate ourselves so we can help change structurally the institutions we work in. That might lead to uncomfortable conversations but I’d rather make mistakes and be challenged than carry on silently because I feel too scared to open up the conversations that need to be had. I’ve also been thinking a lot about language. White privilege exists but privilege has always been associated with wealth and status. It’s important for people to understand that privilege in this context means you could be really struggling in life but if you’re white the colour of your skin is unlikely to add to those struggles. I also have a problem with the word diversity. Diverse from what? It still posits white at the centre. Maybe representation would be more useful? I don’t have the answers. But I want to have the conversation.

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