I don’t understand what all the fuss is about!

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about!
By Jiten Patel (2016)

Recently, I attended a meeting and was discussing the fact that BME (specifically black) students are about 25% less likely to receive a 1st or a 2.1 graded first degree compared to white students in UK universities.

One person in the meeting enquired as to why I was making such a fuss. The person went on to say that if people were worth a 1st, they would get it! I therefore put back a respectful challenge to that person saying, “Given what the data shows, are you saying that black people are less intelligent than white people?”

The person responded that they had black friends with degrees even though they, themselves, did not hold a degree. They went on to say that they really did not understand why it was such a big deal.

When I went on to say that it was a big deal, the person did not want to hear it and cut me off by saying that that was my opinion and they had theirs! I persisted a little further by saying that this was not a matter of opinion it was a matter of fact; the data consistently showed the same trend. Additionally, if BME student attainment rates are so far behind, how do we improve representation and proportionality in the workplace?

The person in question was just not interested. My initial internal reaction was that this is a typical response from someone who is informed by the tabloid press (a judgement on my part, I know). The worst part of the conversation was that nobody else in them meeting chose to take part in the exchange! Being the only BME person in the room willing to challenge made me acutely aware of my difference in that meeting.

How often is it that you find yourself marginalised in such a situation; it is clear that you are presenting a fact based argument, but, not only does it fall on deaf ears, others who know better fail to take up the argument because they do not wish to rock the boat?
What would you do in such a situation?

This type of issue is exactly why I was inspired to write a book, with my friend and professional associate, Gamiel Yafai, called “Demystifying Diversitya handbook to navigate Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.


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