Want to be a BAME ally? Here’s how

18 June 2020

I wanted to write this blog because from personal experience I know how important it is to be an ally, and in particular how valued it is by our BAME colleagues when people who are not part of the BAME community make a stand alongside them against prejudice.

I am now proud to count myself as a BAME ally, but my experience of being any sort of ally began almost 3 years ago when I became an LGBTQ+ ally, as a result of witnessing the prejudice experienced by a relative.  I realised then that in some small way my support made a difference. 

It has been very evident in the last three weeks how supported the BAME community have felt because people from every ethnicity and background, prompted by the murder of George Floyd,  have expressed outrage that  prejudice continues to persist in our own society as well as in the USA.  But what can we do to help?  My answer, having talked to colleagues here at KN, is that by taking time to ask, you have already done something, but there is more you can do.  What follows is based partly on my experience, but mainly from what I have learned from members of our own BAME community at KN, to whom I am really grateful for their wisdom and insights.

Let’s start with the basics, what is an ally?

An ally is someone who actively promotes the culture of inclusion. An ally, regardless of their own ethnicity, recognises that they can and want to make a concerted effort to understand the obstacles marginalised groups face.

What can an ally do to help?

Speak up

There are many times when comments are made about people from ethnic minorities whether in social or professional settings which are inappropriate or at worst offensive. When this happens, say something. Don’t let such behaviour go unchecked as it gives the impression that it is ‘okay’.

Your approach need not be confrontational; actually, it is far better if it isn’t. The best method is to politely tell the individual why their comment is inappropriate and furthermore that you find it inappropriate despite the fact that it is not directed at you.

Educate yourself

The Black Lives Matter movement is important. It shines a light on the disparity of treatment of black people compared to other ethnicities. There are lots of tools available to assist to understand this movement and be fully informed including books, films, seminars and essays. To start you off, here are a few:

Books

  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 
  • So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Podcasts/listening

TV/Film

  • When they see us (Netflix) (this is a tough watch, please persevere until the end)
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin documentary)

Networks

Do not shy away

One of the key concerns expressed is: ‘talking about race is uncomfortable’.  That same discomfort is felt by BAME people every day, just from a different perspective. The Business in the Community Race at Work Survey conducted in 2015 found that the vast majority of respondents found topics like gender and sexuality easier to discuss.  In 2020, they reported the following key facts:

  • Race equality in the UK will potentially bring a £24 billion per year boost to the UK economy
  • Organisations with more diverse teams have 33 per cent better financial returns.
  • Only one in 16 people at senior levels in the private and public sector are from a BAME) background
  • Only 33 per cent of employees stated that they have a senior-level champion for diversity and inclusion in their workplaces

If we do not talk about race, it stunts progress, openness and inclusion. Open conversations challenge misconceptions, create solutions and improves culture. This open culture is what we strive for at Kingsley Napley.

Make a change

If each one of us makes a pledge to change one thing in our respective organisations or communities for the betterment of ethnic minorities, the difference could be immense.

For example, if you work in Human Resources, review current recruitment and promotion practices to examine if any unconscious biases are preventing BAME candidates from gaining employment and then, when they do, staying within the organisation.  This is something we are actively doing and we are working with external agencies to assist us with this.

If you are in the top management team  and there are no ethnic minorities at ‘the table’ with you, question that.

Being an ally is not a full-time job, but it is something you should always be mindful of as situations may arise when you least expect it. Neither is it a badge you wear without any action, it is your way of recognising the difference you can make and then acting on it.

For my part, I am definitely still learning and when I make mistakes, which no doubt I will, I will be very sorry but I will keep trying.  Because though it costs me little to be an ally I know that if we can all stand together with our colleagues and friends in the BAME community that is the best chance we all have of combatting prejudice.

Stephen Parkinson is Kingsley Napley's Senior Partner.

BAME bulletin board

BAME bulletin board

Positive representation in the tech industry with Ash Cooper

In this podcast episode of KN BAME Talks for Black History Month 2020, Ash Cooper, IT Director at Kingsley Napley, talks about positive representation and his career in the tech industry.

Listen to the podcast

Shannett Thompson speaks at Urban Lawyers Careers Conf​erence November 2019​

Urban Lawyers works to makes the law more accessible as a career to marginalised groups and improve social mobility and diversity in the legal profession.​

View Urban Lawyers CC 2019 site

Film screening of The Hard Stop

Attended by KN employees and the Stop and Search Legal Project.

View SSLP's site

Intersecti​onality P​​er-spective - Celebrating Black History Month

Kingsley Napley's BAME and LGBTQ & Allies networks hosted a series of talks at London's Arboretum on 16 October 2019. The focus of the event was to open up the conversation about intersectionality, whilst shining a light on the progress of Black History Month in Britain. The speakers were Charles Irvine, Anthony Francis, Debo Nwauzu and Dr S Chelvan.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2020: BAME heroines who exemplify #EachforEqual

Drawing from the strength of shared experiences, women around the world have been uniting in common struggles such as sexual and domestic violence, pay inequality, reproductive autonomy and climate change. While great leaps forward have been made and women-led movements have been gaining unprecedented attention and support , minority ethnic women are often left behind as these struggles are compounded with the intersection of their race/ethnicity and gender.

View blog post

BAME webinar: Challenges faced at work

Recorded Monday 3 December 2018.

View webinar

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020: “Stand Together”

Holocaust Memorial Day, on 27 January 2020, will mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, where more than a million people perished in gas chambers, most of them Jews. The day is internationally marked in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust and other appalling acts of genocide, including later atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, and to recognise that the lessons of the Holocaust are still relevant, especially at a time when racism and extremism is on the rise across Europe.

View blog post

BAME book club: The Good Immigrant

Our most recent book is by Nikesh Shukla.

Kingsley Napley Diversity and Inclusion Statistics 2019

Download report

Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility