The Palace, Meghan Markle, Sistah Space and Racism in the Workplace
22nd December 2022
Racism in the workplace is something most of us have assumed to be assigned to the cultural waste bin, along with shoulder pads, Gordon Gekko and ashtrays on the desk. Unfortunately, the recent accusations of racism within the institution of ‘The Palace’ have shown us that it’s anything but.
When Meghan Markle and Harry Windsor undertook their controversial interview with Oprah in 2021, they accused the Windsors of “racism”, a claim they were later to reiterate in their current Netflix series where he claims there’s “a huge level of unconscious bias” in the Royal Family.
To add to these allegations, Ms Ngozi Falani (founder of charity Sistah Space) claimed Lady Susan Hussy subjected her to a racist line of questioning at the Queen Consort’s reception. According to Ms Falani, Lady Hussy repeatedly asked about her heritage, refusing to accept the answer that she is British. Ms Falani later alleged the incident was another example of ‘institutional racism’. Officials at the palace (including Lady Susan) have since apologised and released a statement saying:
“The royal households will continue their focus on inclusion and diversity, with an enhanced programme of work which will extend knowledge and training programmes, examining what can be learnt from Sistah Space, and ensuring these reach all members of their communities.” Racism, it seems, is something that sadly is not confined to the past but is still with us and found within one of the most prestigious workspaces in the UK today. All of this has shown us that we must not be complacent about assessing workplace culture for issues such as racism and that workplaces must be vigilant about creating a culture where casual racism cannot go unchallenged. And it’s not just about interactions between colleagues. Real cultural change must come from the top, with a root and branch review of work policies, processes and hiring strategies to ensure a fair and inclusive workplace.
As Dr Jonathan Lord, Lecturer in Human Resources Management and Employment Law (University of Salford Business School) states, “…to root out racism, employers need to critically assess their culture from top to bottom and tackle racism at a systemic level by considering where and how far it is embedded into their own organisations. Systemic racism exists where bias and prejudice are built into systems, processes, policies, as well as customs and practices of organisations. The main stimulus by systemic racism is found in the leadership of an organisation and has developed over a long period of time.”
Racism inside and outside the workplace, is sadly still widespread. It may not be the overt racism of previous decades, rather it’ll be present in the form of systematic inequities and unconscious bias. As a specialist in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, encouraging organisations to self-reflect on their policies and practices is very important to Marshalls.
To help clients proactively and consciously address this issue, we created a course called ‘Let’s Talk about Race’, in which we hear the accounts and lived experiences of racism from people of colour.
For more details or a demo, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.