Windrush and Employment Discrimination: My second generation story by Hillna Fontaine, Founder and CEO, Mabadiliko CIC

The Race Relations Act 1965 was introduced just a few years after my birth. It was intended to send a message that the UK Government acknowledged our experiences of racial discrimination.

It didn’t make any difference.

This reality smacked me in the face when a Careers Advisor told a young and ambitious me, that rather than becoming a secretary, I would be more suited as a cashier at my local Tesco.

One of my first roles was in telecommunications. After several years, when my manager was leaving, I was asked to take on their role. I discovered that working twice as hard and receiving amazing appraisals meant nothing. Unbeknown to me, I’d actually been training a new member of staff to be my manager. What was unsaid was that I was racialised as incapable of management. I haven’t worked for a company since.

Working for myself was an act of self-love.

Acts and policies do not change people’s inherent beliefs, fears, biases or prejudices.

Proving direct intent of racial discrimination (as required by most organisations’ complaints procedures) is almost impossible. Employers can still easily reject obvious instances of discrimination.  Black staff tell us that policies offer little, if any, protection from abuse, bullying, harassment and gaslighting. Some managers are uncomfortable discussing and acknowledging discrimination. Those that try are often shut down when they try to take the smallest steps.

How do we achieve antiracism when social norms have discouraged us from talking about racism for so long?

At Mabadiliko CIC our approach is rooted in Cultural Humility, which is about more than legislation and policy. It means actively listening to the lived experiences of others and critically self-evaluating the racist ideas we’ve consumed. It means tending to our biases. It means saying I’m sorry.

If you want to find out more about protecting your staff and initiating safe and brave conversations about antiracism in your organisation, you can book a free consultation. DM us or email info@mabadilko.org.

Hillna Fontaine, Founder and CEO, Mabadiliko CIC. 

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