Race Matters for all of us

By Suzanne Tyler, Director of Services to Members on 26 May 2021 Maternity Safety

It has been a whole year since the murder of George Floyd, an event that shook many individuals and organisaitons into action against systemic racism. I don’t think any of us, regardless of who we are or where we come from, have not been disturbed and moved by the work that has followed in tackling racism, discrimination and bias within our own society, culture, healthcare – and yes, our maternity services.

A year on from George Floyd’s death and almost a year on from rolling out the RCM’s Race Matters initiative, we have seen some progress made. Today, the RCM launches its position statement on improving the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic maternity staff. We have also seen that the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) programme will become a mainstay in identifying recruitment and workplace progression in every Trust. This is great work, but there is still a way to go.

The RCM’s position statement on racism in the workplace is a cornerstone in our commitment to standing against discrimination and standing with our members who experience it. While it is a great step to have this in writing, to show that this is the position of our union, but we also need to ensure that this is not just words, but deeds too.

Each of us has a role to play in challenging and changing the system. For myself, I’ve come to realise that it is no longer good enough not to be racist, I must be ‘anti-racist’. I have a duty to listen and learn about the experiences of people who face discrimination every day.

Not being able to pronounce someone’s name so refusing to say it, intrusive questions about heritage and excluding someone from casual chit chat. These are just some examples of intentional and unintentional ways that hostile attitudes towards culturally marginalised groups are created. These are just some of my own takeaways from Race Matters training sessions. Here is what some of our workplace representatives said about the training:

“I now have underpinning knowledge to help me challenge racist behaviour, to support members in calling out racism and addressing racist culture at work”

“Ignoring racism is colluding with the perpetrator, is a challenging thing to do but we have to call it out”

“the determination to change and the perseverance to proceed with aiming for a better society through changing minds and adapting strategies in teachable moments”

Our Race Matters training is open to all our workplace representatives. All of your trusts and boards will have their own commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and should support you attend these sessions.  Stewards or health and safety reps are entitled to protected time for this training. The knowledge and skills you will bring back will benefit not just the RCM and members locally but will support your Trust’s ambitions to be a great place to work. If you have not yet booked onto a Race Matters training session you can do so here.

Tackling racism is a human rights issue, it is a maternity issue, and it is a management issue. Our union against racism has to start with affirming our own position. We each have an individual responsibility when it comes to shaping collective change. So join us for the training or get in touch with your reps, your regional and/or national officers to find out what you can do.