Foreword from Shalni Arora (Trustee) and Jo Broadwood (CEO) – The Belong Network
Racism is suddenly and at last everyone’s business and acting against it everyone’s responsibility. It is time for us all to be clear about which side we are on, through our work, our philanthropy, our actions. Benjamin Franklin himself said ‘justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.’
Structural and systemic inequalities affecting different groups and communities have been exposed and are deepening as the impact of the pandemic continues to unfold. The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities has renewed focus on the painful and pervasive issue of structural and systemic racism. This is not new and has been highlighted repeatedly in studies that demonstrate the persistent gap in outcomes in employment, housing, health, attainment and life opportunities, particularly for black communities.
The present moment is an opportunity for transformation and change. What has been heartening about the peaceful protests across the world is the involvement of people from all walks of life and all sectors; from major corporations to the US military, all have expressed their support. The question is can we transform this into something that allows a new sense of belonging, a sense of ‘all of us’ where it doesn’t mean that we are all the same, but that we recognise and celebrate our shared humanity, resources and planet? There is anxiety and a lack of knowledge and expertise amongst some groups about how to do this well. That doesn’t matter as there is no such thing as failure, but an opportunity to learn and do things better. This anxiety should not stop us from taking action and there are several organisations we can support.
Professor John. A. Powell, Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of Berkeley in the U.S acknowledges that the forces of ‘othering’ are strong. Often driven by a sense of fear, and anxiety about not being heard or recognised, narratives which emphasise polarisation and division spread quickly aided by social media and a 24-hour internet news culture. He affirms the need for us all to prioritise work that promotes belonging and that sense of ‘all of us’ and offers the insight that ‘though Fear is faster, Love is stronger’. Now is the time for entering into new alliances that build bridges and connections across different groups. ‘All of us’ has no meaning if some of us are left behind, excluded and discriminated against. As philanthropists with an interest and investment in a fairer, kinder, more socially just and peaceful world it is up to us to act ensuring we move towards a world where we all feel that we belong.
The murder of George Floyd rightly mobilised thousands of peaceful protests across the world calling for an end to racial injustice and inequality. The pain and anger of black communities needs to be listened to and we must heed the call for change. Our organisation, ‘Belong’ supports the call by Operation Black Vote for a Racial Equality strategy that can develop into a broader Social and Race Equality Contract. We urge further reform in education, the criminal justice system and health outcomes as necessary to tackle inequality and root out injustice.
Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network exists to address the barriers, structural and relational, that prevail between all groups – the old and young, black and white, religious and non-religious, straight and gay and many more. We connect people, places and organisations locally and nationally across the UK to disseminate knowledge and best practice. We support all those who are doing this vital social glue work; giving them the resources, skills, training, inspiration and confidence to improve their practice. Together with our members, we are developing a shared voice on key issues, and influencing policy so that we can make an integrated society where, belonging and integration are an embedded, everyday reality.
An independent charity and membership network, our vision is a society where difference and diversity is welcomed and celebrated; where there is kindness, trust and enduring social connections between different groups and communities. The research tells us that the most powerful form of reducing prejudice and promoting empathy between different groups is through social mixing. Whether that is face to face or online, relationships across difference play a key role in helping us to move beyond narratives of ‘us’ and ‘them’ towards ‘all of us’; where be