Enough about us, what about you?

The racism that we see in the Financial Profession, exists simply because we live in a racist society. It isn’t there by chance, the inequalities that are present in the Financial Planning world were created to serve a specific purpose.

Anna Sofat recently addressed this when she said, “Financial services were created by white men for white men.”

Financial Changemakers Podcast

And yet, conversations concerning the dismantling of discrimination, either within the profession itself or those attempting to receive service from it, have largely centred around the experiences of those discriminated against. Which is of course a good thing. People need to be aware of the inequalities that have and continue to happen. But it isn’t enough. Merely talking about oppression isn’t enough. Going over the numbers that show the lack of racial diversity amongst Financial Planners isn’t enough. The profession won’t change in the way we want it to, unless those in positions of privilege and power start to recognise the invisible privileges our society has granted them.

It would be unfair to say this isn’t already happening. Some have asked me, “How can we be allies?”

But this question was given to me in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. When the BLM movement had sparked a fire inside many. My fire however, was burning low, I was too exhausted to really give this person an answer.

Samuel Etienne stated July last year that, “Britain developed structural racism, the US perfected it.”

So it should be pointed out that George Floyd’s death although tragic, it’s nothing new. It’s the same thing that’s been happening for hundreds of years. Just like our presence; it’s nothing new. And so the fight for racial diversity and inclusion becomes tiresome, as black and brown people have been part of British history for hundreds of years.

Black people have contributed to the British economy for hundreds of years. It becomes degrading that this conversation and challenge is even still happening. That I have to convince people on the ‘positive impact’ racial diversity can have on a business. It’s insulting and exhausting.

Between the months of May and August 2020, I had many reach out to me for guidance on what they could do to educate themselves on the intricate mechanisms of institutional racism and oppression. Initially I was overwhelmed with slight joy that I could feel a change happening, frustration eventually kicked in. We know our history. The burden can not fall on us to educate others on their’s. Not when we’ve practically begged our peers before now to understand the struggle and we’ve been shot down with the race and sensitivity card.

It is not our burden

To exemplify, a few years ago I worked for a company where there were many incidents of racism and I endured racially insensitive comments. My manager’s solution to this was to have me give a training session about racism to my peers. I refused for three reasons. Whilst my experience is valid and should be heard, I am not trained to give such a talk. Secondly, it should not be my responsibility to do so. Thirdly, if I should give such a talk, they may assume this issue is exclusively to do with me, the only woman of colour that worked at the company at the time.

Would they have assumed this? They wouldn’t be alone. Black people can take up as much space and platforms to speak about racism in the UK as possible, some white people will always believe that the issue of racism belongs to us, and us alone. For they see themselves as raceless, their skin colour having no involvement with the issue. If they’re not racist themselves, why even mention it to them? I mean, they don’t see colour right? And with the whole premise of the conversation being racialised, the burden falls on us.

However, without recognition of how my visible blackness makes others whiteness invisible, without analysis of privilege, my platform does nothing. My voice becomes white noise and I am left exhausted.

Every system of inequality will have people that benefit from it and people that don’t.  More people may be  becoming more clued up about the history of racism and its effects on society today, a lot of people miss the connecting dot however that in order for black people to be disadvantaged in the way that they are, both economically and institutionally, someone has to be benefiting from that.

It’s thus crucial that people educate themselves on not just what it means to be oppressed, but what that consequently means to be white. People need to educate themselves on white supremacy. And there are plenty of resources out there to educate those on issues such as these:

  • Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni- Eddo Lodge, shot to popularity in 2017 and offers up an honest and frank account of the frustration I reference, coupled with Britain’s barbaric racist history and it’s accomplices – white privilege and denial.
  • Robin DiAngelo in 2012 published What Does It Mean To Be White: Developing White Racial Literacy, an accessible guide that breaks down the miseducation about racism, ideologies about individualism and colorblindness and denial’s bestfriend – fragility.
  • Akala’s powerful book Natives: Race & Class in The Ruins of Empire places denial under examination as he strips apart the issues of race and class that sit at the heart of Britain’s racialised legacy.
  • I’ve collaborated with Gretchen Betts on a 8 episode podcast named Financial Changemakers, where we unpick key topics surrounding race, gender, sexuality, disability, age and mental health, and how they interlock with the Financial Services lack of diversity and inclusion.

There are so many more resources than can be named, but maybe these are a good starting point.

The reality of it is, is that racism affects everyone. You can’t escape that fact. It’s not just filling in the blanks of our curriculum. At some stage people need to put in the hard work themselves and confront the harsh realities of their whiteness and privilege. We won’t tackle any system of inequality unless the privilege that accompanies this is truly addressed.

Moreover, the wealth disparities amongst black people in the UK has no structure without privilege to contextualise it and the lack of racial diversity creating the adviser gap in our profession will remain just that – a gap.

So, what can you do to be allies?

Check your privilege. Check others too, even when we’re not present.

  • Address it, recognise it.
  • Challenge it.
  • Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Go read about it, listen to a podcast or two.
  • Ask yourself some tough questions and be brave enough to answer them.

Because frankly, enough about us, what about you?