October sees a celebration of the contribution of Black and Minority groups to the society. “Black History Month” is controversial, often causing strong emotions for some. In my opinion if it does nothing else the controversy alone gets everyone thinking and talking about inclusion issues and that’s got to be a good thing. However, I think it's sad that it takes this kind of publicity to engage people in understanding and celebrating difference and of course difference isn’t confined to ethnic background – there are eight other protected characteristics which attract similar debate.
Some of you may know me but let me try something….
I spent six years as a single mum after the breakdown of my relationship and I am the main carer for my mum and my sister both of whom have severe chronic conditions. Between myself and my partner we have two children under the age of 12. I live in a small mining village in which I have lived all my life. I am a trained nurse – a job I entered due to a passion as a teenager to change the world and prevent medical negligence after a very close personal loss. I have now been working in education for about 8 years and still intend on changing the world. I am a white middle aged female.
Now I'd like to ask a question, at which point did you connect with me as a person? I'd put my money on the fact that it wasn’t when I told you my “protected characteristics”- and this is my point. If we are brave enough to be honest with ourselves and others, then I believe that difference becomes a fallacy. If we see each other by what’s really underneath the surface-the life experiences, the feelings and the scars we bear then are we truly different?
I think society’s real problem is valuing each other and realising that each human life is precious and worthy and that everyone contributes in unique ways. Leaders need to help create the environments in which others thrive, in which people can feel comfortable to be vulnerable and be brave enough to embrace it. I realise that this isn’t always easy and there will always be people who we don’t like and times when we disagree with each other but the world is a much more interesting place if we listen and try to understand. Black History Month gives us the opportunity to see each other differently and be brave enough to be authentic and true to our own values and beliefs.