Ensuring our BAME members are listened to

Karen Middleton explains why the past few months have been the most challenging, the most enlightening and the most humbling period of her career  

Karen Middleton CSP chief executive

Thank you to all the Black, Asian and minority ethnic members who have spent time educating me in recent months. 

I know that many white members reacted adversely to my apology to our BAME members in relation to #BLM. I can only assume the reaction was defensive and relates to the frequently used statement of defence that ‘all lives matter’. If this was your reaction please read on.  

‘All lives matter’ can’t be true until black lives matter. ‘All lives matter’ implies we are all equal and have equal opportunity and I am very sorry to say we are not. The statement denies the inequity and is, therefore, a weapon of racism. Most of us only think of racism as personal, intentional, something that bad people do, and so our response is ‘I’m not bad and I didn’t intend to be racist’ and therefore it is not a racist statement… and so the inequity persists. For me the next step has been to learn and really understand what racism is rather than what it is not. We may know it is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, but I have learnt so much more about how racism is structural and how it is reinforced by policy. 

I’ve learned how, as a white person, I have been socialised to do things in a white way that will actually re-entrench racism.

I’ve talked about stepping aside and making space for BAME members but I was challenged recently to consider that the space is wrong, as it is governed by white culture – and is limited by that very same culture. Instead we need to reimagine the space. Perhaps reimagine our profession? 

Learning more is hard and painful but that is because it is the right thing to do, not the easiest thing to do. It is not enough not to be racist – that is not the opposite of racism – I have to be anti-racist.  

We all have the ability to change. Imagine the power of all 59,000 members of the CSP standing up as anti-racist. As Ibram X Kendi says ‘the heartbeat of racism is denial. The heartbeat of anti-racism is a willingness to be vulnerable and acknowledge the problem’.  

  • Karen Middleton is CSP chief executive  

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