When Words Are Not Enough

By Monica Mwanje, 12 July 2021

As I write this, I am thinking about the unacceptable racist abuse Black members of England’s Mens football team have received in the wake of the Euro 2020 final.

To protect the mental health of others, and my own, I will not share examples of the disgusting items that have been posted on social media. If you want to go and find them on your own, you unfortunately won’t have to look that far.

I’m not shocked that these players have received this abuse; the signs were always there that this would happen. From a section of fans booing the players as they made a peaceful stance against racism when they took the knee, you would have to be living on a different planet to not realise that racism is very much alive and well.

Racism permeates all aspects of society, from our schools, universities, into businesses, touching all places of work (including on and off the football pitch).

There have been words of condemnation, but to me it feels like this perpetuating loop of inertia; real change dangled as an unobtainable carrot.

In these moments, words are not enough. What’s needed is action and systemic change so that racism and racist behaviours truly become unacceptable.

It’s not enough to say “We condemn racist behaviour” or “We don’t stand for it” because these words have been said before. And look where we are now?

Different behaviours and different actions are required if we truly want to drive and achieve different outcomes.

So if you’re a leader or manager and sitting there today wondering what you can do to make a change in your workplace… Here are some ideas:

  1. Recognise the microaggressions that fuel the fire and contribute to racism and racist behaviour. This University of Edinburgh resource contains guidance on Recognising and Counteracting Racial Microaggressions  so you can understand and learn how to spot and counter them. This article by Rebecca Knight You’ve Been Called Out for a Microaggression. What Do You Do? provides practical allyship advice.
  2. Get appropriate support and coaching for your business. Anthony Walker Foundation and Anti Racist Cumbria are two organisations (of many) I can think of that do this work.  Ask them to audit your policies, practices and procedures. By understanding how and where racism is present in your workplace, you can then commit to stamping it out, informed with knowledge of what interventions are needed and where they should be targeted.
  3. Work on becoming an active bystander. Get training to understand and know what to do and the effective actions to take that will make a difference. When I write this, I think back to the words I heard Frank Douglas spoke in 2020: “Your culture is defined by the worst behaviours you tolerate.”

What will you no longer tolerate and what will you commit to changing?

I don’t have much else to say except that I’m tired and sad. I am proud of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. You stepped up and into that cauldron and took on the pressures.  You did not let anyone down. It is failures in leadership and society that have let you down.


Further resources

We regularly post resources on the MM Creative Solutions website.

For inclusion resources, click here and here. Here are some more Insights articles you may find useful:

The Privilege of Silence

The Future of Work – The View From My Boat

Building an Inclusive Culture


Photo credit: James Eades on Unsplash