Make no mistake: racism is deadly and breeds hate. This much has been sorely evident in the last few weeks as the world mourns the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and so many more, who have died at the hands of systemic racism. In every corner of Centrepoint, we grieve and hurt for all those who have lost their lives to this form of injustice, and we are with those whose lives have been blighted by it. Unfortunately, racism is nothing new, changing shape from century to century but ultimately still grasping on tight within modern society, and it’s about time the world – individuals, governments and institutions like ours – reckoned with and reflected on the part we play in perpetuating systemic racism.
We understand that this is not a problem that occurs ‘elsewhere’. Racism can be both overt and insidious; as plain as day or buried within unconscious bias. It could be not choosing a person of colour for a job role or promotion; or rationalising unsavoury opinions by prefacing our poor excuses with stock phrases like “it’s just that…”; or simply saying “it’s too difficult” when conversations get uncomfortable. Remaining silent, making excuses for racist behaviour, or choosing walking away from a problematic situation means you are complicit. We are choosing not to be.
Thankfully, the mobilisation that has occurred across the world – and pertinently, here in the UK – highlights a spirit of solidarity against racism. At Centrepoint, we echo the sentiment being shared universally: that it is not enough to not be racist, instead we must be anti-racist. As such, we know that writing a statement cannot be where our support ends, and are resolute in our commitment to ongoing and long-term change that will ensure unconscious bias, racism and all forms of injustice have no place in our organisation.
So, there’s lots to be done. Across the globe, it has been young people at the forefront of this push for change. As such, we are dedicated to creating a safe environment in which the young people we support can be part of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) discussion. Within these reflective spaces, frontline staff are discussing the impact of the movement on young people, so they are better equipped to offer support. We have also connected them with external organisations who are leading a national conversation on BLM.
In addition to this, our Senior Executive Team, backed by our Board of Trustees, have outlined four actions we are taking forward straight away:
- Implementing an action plan around inclusion: this is one of the central pillars of our People Strategy, and will look at everything from our inductions to our appraisals.
- Establishing a Black, Asian and Minority and Ethnic (BAME) working group: this crucial team will inform our approach and provide a dialogue on inclusion issues experienced in society, which may be reflected or felt within Centrepoint.
- Listening to staff about their concerns of heightened risk for BAME people with coronavirus: from here, we will work together to identify solutions to these issues.
- Introducing a confidential feedback process: so staff feel comfortable raising any issues they may have.
Alongside these actions, we are committed to ensuring that our systems, processes and procedures are sufficiently robust to stand against unconscious bias, and we are challenging everyone in Centrepoint to reflect on whether they are doing enough as individuals to eradicate unconscious bias and racism.
Change always requires a healthy level of introspection: we work hard to try to ensure our dedication to equality and inclusion is present in everything that we do, both in our offices and at the services we run – but we are well aware there is always more that can be done to support our Black colleagues and young people.
So we are listening, and we are learning. We hope everyone, from our young people to our staff to our supporters, knows that we are open and ready to have these conversations. The difficult, uncomfortable, crucial conversations that bring about positive change.
And we are ready to do the work. Our mantra and our hope is “A Job and a Home” for every vulnerable young person who encounters our charity. How can we achieve that if we are working within a system that is rotten at its core? We believe everyone deserves opportunity and a future, and that cannot happen in an environment that tolerates discrimination. Therefore, we seek to call out racism when we see it, attack unconscious bias at the root and give those who feel silenced a voice to speak their truth. We can’t wait to start this journey.