I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.
by Morak Babajide-Alabi
Let us go back a little while to recent history. In 2020, the killing of the African-American George Floyd by a white police officer attracted worldwide attention. From the east to the west, Asia to Africa, Europe to China. The protests dwarfed the risks of the worldwide COVID-19 as people lined the streets in condemnation of the killing.
People of different persuasions and colours took part in the many marches. We all pretended to be on the side of justice. We cried and wailed for the black man murdered by a uniformed police officer. It was in broad daylight and a full view of the world. The world was appalled by the arrogant manner of the police officer who knelt on the neck of a fellow human being for nine minutes and 29 seconds. To say the killing was awful is, to put it mildly.
The street protests brought attention to the plights of black people in white-dominated countries. It brought to the public space the discussion of how black people are treated and how their lives are affected emotionally, economically, career-wise or otherwise. It was, therefore, easy for any black person to relate to what Floyd went through in his last minutes.
Being black in the US or Europe is hard work. You are in a wonderland if you think that as a black man or woman, you are on the same level as white folks. At work, school, or in the neighbourhood. No. And this is not an inferiority complex. The disservice you can do to yourself as a black man is to have a wrong mentality. It is the genesis of a journey to a miserable life full of disappointments. It is better to prepare yourself that every step is challenging and not smooth sailing. You have to pick your way through as you avoid the many nails and traps set by the system to catch you out.
You are in a bad place if you are an immigrant, as you are defined by many other factors apart from your colour. People rate you by your accent, your names, dress sense and many other idiosyncrasies. In short, you are under the microscope to check you against the indexes set by the person, system or institutions you are in touch with. They make the rules in their heads and box you into it.
I am not suggesting that the black people born and bred in Europe or America are better off. No, as the colour and not capabilities stands them out. Their roots and not their values define who they are. The colour of their skins is a ‘passport’ to rejection. In general, they have limited opportunities in societies that beg people in the acceptable demographic to make use of all. It is no surprise. Society has placed a limit on the development of people of colour.
You may ask, what is my point? Or if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. Not at all, I am disappointed by the hypocrisy of everyone after the killing of Floyd. Organisations and companies identified and promised diversity in every aspect of their operations. They rushed to the media to outline how they intended to diversify the top-level management. Tongue in cheek, they condemned how black people are systematically kept away from board rooms. They promised a change.
They were very unconvincing. I was not moved by the fake tears or grandstanding. It prompted me to write the following in an article titled Racists Not, We Think Black Lives Matter, I published on June 14, 2020. I wrote: “I get goosebumps when I see employers of labour that have inbuilt systems to reject black and minority applicants based on their names come out to condemn racism. How sincere are the executives of 99 per cent white-populated management team denouncing racism? How seriously do we take companies asking black employees to come forward with past grievances? They had the opportunity to deal with these cases when they occurred but chose to look away. It is funny when bosses that had fettered promotion of blacks or ethnic minority colleagues are sending email messages out with promises to redress the situations.
“Imagine individuals who could not tolerate black colleagues, neighbours, classmates a few months ago are now the unusual champions of anti-racism campaigns. The institutions, that a few weeks ago, were active promoters and supporters of racial discrimination are tongue in cheek, lining up to say “Black Lives Matter.” The white bosses and their “enablers” that barely regarded their black employees as human beings have suddenly repented. They are talking about racism in uncomplimentary words. Surprisingly, they are no longer looking for the tails hidden in their black employees’ trousers. Funny, this is.”
It has gone full circle now, and nothing changed. Wait a minute. Maybe something has changed. Some companies have kept the “diversity” footnote on their websites without any matching action on the composition of the top management staff. The euphoria about diversity has worn off. We are back to the status quo as companies have pressed their reset buttons. Qualified black employees have taken their natural positions at the back. Criteria for opportunities and promotions have been re-defined by people who, a year ago, were champions of anti-racism. The diversity issue is up for discussion at every opportunity, but with no plan on the way forward. There are new ways to keep people of colour away from the management teams of their companies.
Let us not deceive ourselves. Racial discrimination is going nowhere. It will not disappear, nor will people repent overnight and accept that all races are equal. There is no way this will happen. The utterances of leaders in government and businesses are not encouraging at all. If you doubt my assertion, go on social media and see for yourself. I have heard the argument that the racial abuses on social media are not real, but I beg to disagree. The people who engage in these live in the society, go to work, shop in local stores, and surprisingly are not older people. It means the baton of racism has been passed to the younger generation.
Next week, I will share some of the racist abuses I have suffered since relocating to the UK. They are traumatic, but they are the experiences of every black man and woman in the UK, USA or anywhere in Europe.