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Reflections on anti-racism, allyship and action over words

13 February 2024

4 mins

As we mark not only Race Equality Week 2024 but also as I approach my four-year work anniversary at Loughborough, it felt like an appropriate time to reflect on my own experiences of supporting anti-racism at the University.

For anyone who knows me, I am not someone who can easily stand still, both in a personal and professional context. If things need to be done and are not in my mind moving quickly enough then I often grow increasingly impatient to the point where I tend to just “crack on” and do something.  Likewise, I get deeply frustrated when opportunities are missed or even worse when claims are made about progress and performance which are not backed up by real impact and evidence. This is true of any project but particularly in relation to our EDI mission.    

Having spoken candidly to colleagues and friends from different ethnic backgrounds over the past several years, this sense of frustration is not only magnified tenfold for them but is deeply personal and can dredge up painful memories based on lived experiences. I like to think of myself as an ally, someone who is very comfortable to call out unacceptable behaviour or, more positively, work to create spaces where different voices are elevated. But the fact remains that I am a white man in a senior leadership position, I have the luxury of choice as to the extent to which I engage, in whether I’m passive or active. 

Since I re-joined the University in June 2020, it’s been a privilege to be closely involved with the Race Equality Charter and some excellent related anti-racism initiatives.  More recently as part of the University Leadership Group, I have been involved in the development of the new University Strategy.  I am delighted to say that the clear commitment to EDI that runs through this for all staff and the tangible steps that are being taken such as embedding EDI commitments into the PDR process, mean that being anti-racist is no longer optional.  We cannot nor should we abdicate the responsibility each and every one of us has to proactively make Loughborough a place where all members of our community feel that they belong.

As part of Race Equality Week, I have been engaging with the 5-Day Challenge culminating in The Big Promise.

The 5-Day Challenge consists of five activities, taking five minutes each day, over five days. These include crucial themes such as identifying and addressing microaggressions; understanding different views and cultures; and ensuring that praise and recognition is delivered inclusively.

The Big Promise particularly resonated with me because it speaks very openly about how “PR gesturing” is not only meaningless but the damage it can do in this space. That the promise itself is a public commitment to positive change and action, not just words, which has to be measurable and for which leaders are held accountable.

The promise can relate to one or more of seven distinct actions, which include having in place a published zero-tolerance policy to racism and microaggressions and a clear action plan for the recruitment, retention and promotion of ethnically diverse staff.

By coincidence I was in India on behalf of the University during Race Equality Week and so it felt particularly pertinent to be engaging with such thought-provoking content. As I met with stakeholders to tell them about the Loughborough community of which we are so proud and that is a great destination for prospective students and partners, it made me reflect even more on how far we still have to go and my own personal contribution to this.

I like to think I am a sociable, compassionate and inclusive leader who makes the time to educate myself about key issues. Whilst the 5-Day Challenge reassured me and reinforced much of what I already know, the Big Promise did make me stop and really question whether I am consciously doing enough each day to play my part in combatting systemic racism. I fear I have become complacent, and in response, I need to refocus where I put my efforts to make a real difference to those members of our community for whom this is not a choice. 

Martyn Edwards
Director of Marketing and Advancement

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Reflections, comments, discussion and opinion on EDI topics from Loughborough University staff and students

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