I stumbled on the fact that this is Race Equality Week, with events aimed at challenging inequality.   However, as a realist, I find myself grimacing because beneficiaries of inequality are on to a pretty good thing and will not easily surrender their privilege, because of one week of passive advocacy and performative gestures. I appreciate that the thought of existing in a more equal society and competing on a level playing field must appear overly threatening to some.   Current power dynamics also mean that those willing to openly challenge racial discrimination are few and far between.

Kay Badu’s story as a survivor of racial discrimination is inspiring and, in my view, really what this week should be about, if we want to make progress towards greater equality.    Many would have seen his story in the Independent last week, so there is no need to go into the details here. The main point I wanted to make is about the importance of voice and accountability in reducing racial discrimination, as this is central to increasing racial equality.   Many victims of racial discrimination sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) as part of a settlement agreement, which I am personally strongly opposed to.  As a result, they are silenced and unable to gain justice.  This is debilitating because victims are then left to cope with the trauma of their experience without a proper remedy.

Kay is representative of a new generation of victims who are less tolerant; less submissive and less willing to suffer in silence.   He is unlike many victims of my generation who have normalized the harms inflicted as a means of survival, because they are simply too afraid to speak out.  What Kay has done is admirable, because he has shown that there is another way to tackle racial discrimination through exposure, publicity and speaking his truth to power.  In doing so, he has also revealed what the trauma feels like, including how he was pushed towards having suicidal thoughts, instead of enjoying a career in the civil service.  Fortunately, he left rather than waiting until he became grey and broken hearted – such memorable words from his interview.

Kay Badu’s story revealed a lot about institutional racism within the civil service, but most of what he said was not surprising to the numerous victims struggling to progress their careers in what can only be described as a hostile environment for many BAME.   The loudness of Kay’s voice was not only due to the absence of a NDA, but also his personal commitment to tackling racial discrimination.   His message may have been uncomfortable to some observers, including those who profess to stand for human rights, fairness and equality, but want it on their terms, or perhaps just in a theoretical sense, rather than actually living a more equal life.

I would encourage all victims of racial discrimination to make their voices heard and do not submit to being silenced.   Preparators of racial discrimination are protected by your silence and continue reoffending. No sanctions are placed on preparators, at least not in a transparent manner where victims can see that those who harmed them have been held to account.  Afterall, racial discrimination is illegal and victims need accountability.   This is why I think it is important not to negotiate with racists, as the fight for racial justice require strong voices, not silence.

I hope Kay will inspire others to speak up and expose perpetrators.   I truly believe that it is important to be part of the change you want to see.  In my humble opinion, Kay is the Champion of Race Equality Week 2022 and I wish him well as he moves to much bigger and better things.

Sonia Warner

Fighting for Racial Justice and Equality

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