A year on from Windrush: lessons to be learned
Some 83 people were wrongly deported to Jamaica even though they hadn’t travelled to the country for many years and certainly didn’t see it as home. They arrived in the UK in the 1950s in response to a call to help Britain rebuild the country after the war. Many became nurses, bus drivers and conductors, all of which were roles that white British people didn’t want to do. In 2017, it transpired that many who had been living in the UK for years were asked to leave due to a mistake by the UK government. The immigration laws in the UK changed and you were required to prove you had the right to live and work here. If you wanted to rent a property, open a bank account you were required to produce a document, usually a passport which confirmed you were British. Many from the Windrush generation didn’t have British passports, some simply because they had never travelled and therefore, never felt the need to apply for a passport. When they did apply for a British passport, it transpired that the proof they required had been destroyed by the UK immigration services and therefore they had no means of proving when they had arrived in the UK. As they couldn’t prove their right to be here, many were put into detention centres and even deported. It was a human tragedy and ironically even Theresa May at the time as prime minister admitted the government had made a mistake. The irony continued because she was home secretary at the time and had helped coin the phrase “hostile environment” and created the laws which lead to the mistake in the first place!
OK, let’s not dwell on the past wrongs and try to look to the future. So, they say, but it seems incredibly difficult to not hark on about the past when, to this day, the national newspapers, particularly the Guardian, continue to report that many people who were promised the compensation by the government have not received a penny. I read Amelia Gentleman’s article in the Guardian and shortly before the Sitting in Limbo programme was aired on BBC1, Anthony Bryrant was offered compensation. Is that how it’s always going to be? Remembering the wrongs that people of colour have gone through only for people in power to simply “say” they will compensate and then don’t actually do it? We, people of colour, can’t rely on such empty promises. We need to focus on us and what’s important to us. We can and should not rely on anyone else to save us.
So, today we see the whole world literally rally, marching and coming out for people of colour. Talking about Black Lives Matter, which is encouraging, but is it really? Are we actually saying that our lives didn’t matter before? That’s how I feel when I read that the people who suffered so badly through the Windrush scandal still haven’t received the promised compensation! It leaves us feeling that we don’t matter, perhaps we never have and never will! You can go back years and never get what we deserve or are entitled to.
So, for me, it’s simple. Allies, yes please we need you as we have tried everything else and nothing has worked, so the only solution is getting non-BAME people on side, who will speak up for us. OK, let’s try that. I hope it works, as I have very little faith in anything else. What is it we want from the outcome of the Black Lives Matter movement? Can you imagine that all I want is to be treated fairly and judged on merit and not on the colour of my skin? I can't bear the thought of still writing about this in another few years' time. Allies: we need you, like you need us. This is the time to take action. Please do it.
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Whilst our Muslim colleagues and friends celebrate over communal meals and prayer, it is also a time for us at Kingsley Napley to reflect on the importance of observing and respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. We are motivated to make Kingsley Napley a place which is not only diverse, but also inclusive, where all our people feel able to bring their true selves to work.
When I told some of my friends I was writing a piece about drag activism, their reaction was almost unanimous…
"Oh, but, is there much to say?"
That's when I realised that drag queens, for many, are more synonymous with big hair and lip-syncing pop hits rather than political consciousness and activism. You can certainly understand the reason for this - we have been totally spoiled in recent years with the explosion of Ru Paul’s Drag Race around the world - the make-up, talents and confidence being a feast for the eyes (and the soul). But we cannot minimise the political importance of Mama Ru’s creation. Who could forget numbers such as “Shady Politics”; the discussions of gay conversion therapy while applying make-up; and Bob the Drag Queen describing his arrest during a 2011 marriage equality protest? Not to mention Nancy Pelosi sashaying into the All Stars season…
Coming out is an extremely personal journey and will be unique to each person. It takes a lot of courage to come out and a person may have to repeatedly do this in their personal and professional lives. Statistics show that 46% of people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual and 47% of people who identify as trans feel comfortable to discuss their orientation or gender identity.
How can you put the spotlight on intersectionality to remind others that, even within the LGBTQ+ community, not everyone is treated equal?
Are you proud of who you are, your journey and the person that you’ve become? Do you truly wear your heart on your sleeve? For some, being open and honest about who we are (which includes our gender identity or sexuality) does not come easily and can be extremely hard. It can be even tougher at work, and for those that hide their true self, the energy expenditure is endless. That survival cost of energy makes you less productive, or even worse still, it has a detrimental impact on your mental and physical health.
I am a trans woman who has recently embarked on her transition. Having only taken my first steps on this journey, I am acutely aware when writing this that I have much to learn about myself, about being trans, and about the diverse LGBTQ+ family that I now find myself part of. However, there is one theme that I feel is important to discuss as we celebrate Pride in 2021.
Following on from my colleague Sameena Munir’s blog ‘’pray the gay away: cull conversion therapy worldwide’’, the issue of gay conversion therapy dominates contemporary conversations surrounding LGBT politics and legislation in the UK, but the Government has failed to deliver on its promise to ban it.
For two weeks during Pride month, Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQ+ issues from home and abroad.
It’s been 9 years since R&B artist Frank Ocean headed off rumours about his particular pronoun usage in the album Channel Orange by posting on Tumblr that his first love had been a man. Since then, the momentum for the openness and success of queer artists has continued to gather pace, and LGBTQ+ representation in the arts and mainstream media is as wide as it has ever been. This rise has however raised important questions about pigeonholing queer artists, and perhaps most interestingly whether they must always shoulder the responsibility of ‘pushing the agenda’.
In February this year, I attended a virtual talk held by the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT+ History Month. The speakers featured individuals working in the legal sector and each discussed their experience of coming out as trans or non-binary at work. It feels an apt lesson given this year’s Pride theme: Visibility, Unity and Equality.
In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. As far as I know, I am the first partner at Kingsley Napley (although certainly not the first employee) who has a baby who is lucky enough to have two mums. News of my pregnancy was met with overwhelming support from my colleagues. That support continues to this very day, and my wife and I remain truly grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us. However, since falling pregnant I have learnt that not all workplaces are as supportive to same-sex parents as mine. The concept of two mums or two dads starting a family is something that some people still struggle to get their heads around. So this year, for our KN Pride blog series, I have decided to explain the questions, that speaking from my own experience, it is not helpful to say to same-sex parents.
We have newly renamed our network to the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) group. Our REACH network is a space where we come together to work towards fostering and maintaining an inclusive workplace, where we can all reach our full potential without fear of discrimination.
Satvir Sokhi was recently invited to speak and take part in Leeds Beckett University’s Law Enrichment session which allowed a panel of ethnically diverse professionals to speak to students about our experiences with diversity and inclusion within the legal sector.
On this day each year, over 130 countries around the world seek to celebrate sexual and gender diversities and draw attention to the various forms of discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ+ community continue to experience.
There are various drivers forcing law firms to embrace a more diverse workforce and to attract, promote and retain talent from all backgrounds, regardless of gender, gender-identity, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, age, and socio-economic class (to name but a few).
Following the tragic events of this week, I have thought back to the past two weeks and considered how my position might have been different if I was a woman. I now recognise just how incredibly ‘normal’ it has become for women to be warned against walking alone at night, which is something I have never had to consider as a man. This dichotomy between the experiences of men and women has been made clear by the reaction across traditional and social media.
Kingsley Napley continue to support International Women’s Day to help forge a more gender equal world. As a firm we pride ourselves on having a workforce made up of over 69% women, with more than 50% in the partnership. However, we know that much work still has to be done in the legal sector and beyond.
An urgent inquiry into systemic racism in the NHS and how it manifests itself in maternity care was launched yesterday. The Inquiry has been convened by Birthrights: an organisation dedicated to improving women’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth.
Today will see the start of the UK’s first Race Equality Week (an initiative “to unite organisations and individuals in activity to address issues affecting ethnic minority employees”). Whilst initiatives like this and, indeed, the UK’s first ever Ethnicity Pay Gap Day (8 January 2021) are very welcome and a cause for celebration and hope in relation to such matters, there is much work yet to be done on the issue of race equality and we cannot afford to be complacent. The ethnicity pay gap is one aspect of this that still needs to be addressed, despite the recent publicity around it and the increasing pressure on Government to take action.
According to Diversity UK, in 2018 roughly 13.8% of the UK population was from a minority ethnic background and 40% of the population in London were from the Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Kingsley Napley had the pleasure of hosting an evening with Spark Inside. The charity coaches prisoners and advocates for change within the criminal justice system. Please read on to find out what we learnt and how you can help.
The global events of this year including the Black Lives Matter movement, the apparent disproportionate impact on the BAME population of COVID-19 and news that the ethnicity pay gap remains significant, have again brought the issue of lack of racial equality to the fore.
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