The Normalisation of Racism

I have argued elsewhere that tragic outcomes, such as the murder of George Floyd, are merely manifestations of inherent biases – that can seep into institutionalised racism – within our societal structures and infrastructure.

Therefore, the sad news about the prejudices faced by Azeem Rafiq do not come as a surprise. However, what is shocking is the overt racist abuse – the use of the P-word – suffered by Rafiq and others. Most disturbing of all, is the passing off as ‘banter’. This is simply hideous and cannot be condoned. Rafiq spoke about an ‘openly racist’ captain and a dressing room wherein racist comments were regarded as banter, and a culture in which complaints about racist behaviour were ignored. In recent days, another youth player of Asian origin came forward and detailed how his former team mates used a Muslim prayer mat to clean up the mess from having sex with a woman on her period.

The fallout has been swift, with almost all of Yorkshire County Cricket Clubs sponsors pulling out and the ECB suspending Yorkshire CCC from hosting international matches.

There are several threads which make this episode particularly pernicious. Firstly, the victim acquiescing to the ‘banterous’ culture in the first place. This derives from a feeling of pressure to ‘fit in’. Secondly, a culture of impunity, or a lack of understanding at best. Finally, a culture of ‘gratitude’ wherein an ethnic minority ‘done good’ puts their success down to the benevolence of this country and should show gratitude for the platform they have been given. After Rafiq made his allegations, a senior member of the Yorkshire cricket fraternity accused him of being ‘discourteous, disrespectful and very difficult’, in other words ‘pipe down and be grateful we gave you a seat at the table’. ‘Ungrateful is the new uppity’, as Jelani Cobb wrote.

The confluence of such factors manifests itself into institutions that are systemically racist or at best, where institutions are perceived to be racist.

Let us not imagine that this is limited to the realm of professional sports. Our own research suggests that almost two thirds of ethnic minorities feel as though they are less favourably treated by investment companies (this rises to three quarters of black respondents).

The effects of racism – perceived or otherwise – are acutely felt during the fundraising process, and leads to a greater proportion of BAME-led businesses failing.
The investment universe is an intimidating space for minorities, with a lack of representation and understanding of cultures cited as key factors.

Diversity and inclusion is good for society and good for business. If Rafiq (a former Under-19 captain who led Joe Root and Jos Butler) had been allowed to reach his full potential, it would have only benefited Yorkshire and England cricket. Similarly, we are missing a huge opportunity by not investing into minority led businesses.

We need a meaningful dialogue around race and gender, and this requires the powers that be to honestly evaluate the power structures in place and create an enabling environment to allow minority groups to prosper.

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