Friday, January 30, 2009


Yesterday, I was at a business breakfast about the London Olympics and the opportunities for businesses to tender for contracts in this space. There was hardly any mention of the importance of cultural diversity in the presentations, and there were only two ethnic minorities in the audience of a total of fifty people. I stood up and reminded the panel that one of the key reasons why London won the bid was because of its huge cultural diversity, and therefore it is a legal duty that ethnic minorities benefit from the contracts that are awarded.

This is the reality of race equality in Britain - having a diversity and equality policy will help you tender for Olympics contracts - it does not matter if the owners and directors are mono-cultural to win, except perhaps for the really big contracts, where companies have rushed to hire some ethnic consultants/advisers to win the tenders. The tick-boxing culture is so rampant in Britain and the understanding of race issues so weak among the majority culture, that there is a huge amount of work to be done. Above all, prejudice is deep and real.

Going back to yesterday, one local Councillor came to me and said 2 per cent of Essex is ethnic so we were proportionately right in the room - he somehow forgot that it was this proportion which helped him win the Olympics in the first instance, even though I had said it loudly in my question. Another Business Link representative said that the event was open to all - so it is upto minorities to make the effort to come - he somehow forgot that Chiness takeaway workers are that because they cannot get any other work nor has anyone taken an interest in their training and development for them to learn and progress - they remain stuck behind the counter and sometimes suffer the swearing and taunts they get from their customers, quietly. This in spite of feeding Britain.

Where does one begin in this dialogue? People are so ignorant of their own prejudices and ethnic minorities so incapacitated that there is much to be done. And when Sir Trevor Phillips says that there is no institutional racism in Britain, I strongly disagree.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The latest report on race in Britain from Race for Opportunity shows yet again the real difficulties for ethnic minorities to attain senior positions in both the private and public sectors - the report actually shows that the gap is likely to widen in the future, rather than narrow. None of this is surprising and there is very little embarassment even after Obama has attained the highest leadership position in the world. The real truth is that there is widespread ignorance in Britain about culture and the benefits of diversity and a real fear of difference, especially among people with positions of power and influence. They would rather have workers whose behaviour is known and predictable. Also all too often, the opportunities, mentoring, training and experience that is required at middle-management levels is denied to them. There is a club mentality and people of different cultures are not allowed to be in this club. Even worse, the phrase 'glass ceiling' suggests you can look but not touch or reach. However, if the ceiling is dark, one cannot even look. There are so many public and private sector organisations which have no visibility among ethnic minorities and therefore, we are not even aware of the possibilities for career potential and progression that lie in these organisations.

If there is a serious commitment to change, then work needs to be done at several levels - leadership training to allay fears of diversity, targets to force leaders to change habits or leave, a communications audit to test how the organisation is perceived by minorities, and a culture of innovation which requires organisations to come up with new ways of operating and involving minorities in the innovation process.

If we look at Universities and Grammar Schools in Britain today, they are disproportionately dominated by high achieving ethnic minority students. If there are such strong blockages to leadership, you can rest assured that many of the cream professionals of this country will be migrating out of Britain in the coming years, leading to a brain drain. At a time of economic crisis, Britain simply cannot afford to lose its best brains. Urgent and decisive action is necessary. No less will do.

Friday, January 09, 2009


Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and one of the foremost animal welfare campaigners in the world, makes the most beautiful and compelling statement about the reasons for treating animals with love, respect and dignity that I have ever heard. The above link is a video of her address at the International Conference on Non-Violence in Bethlehem. I strongly recommend you to watch, listen and share in your classrooms or meeting rooms with friends and family.

The real crux of respect is that we do not see others as separate from us. We need to understand our mutuality and inter-dependence, and she argues, animals are a key part of that inter-dependence. Human wars are not disconnected from our daily war on animals. They are simply another symptom or our machoism and arrogance in the world, a far cry from our innate capacity for peace and compassion.

Ingrid has experienced so much violence in her life, so much bullying, yet she has struggled on and it is so surprising that her voice is filled with compassion in spite of her experiences. Her very life is an expression of inter-dependence and ahimsa. I hope after listening to this, you will find time to explore PETA's excellent website full of free and constructive information and resources and promote it to your friends and family. They also have offices in UK and India and work globally to promote the protection of animals - a charity worthy of support from all who believe in peace.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Children are the innocent victims of war. They become pawns in a struggle they do not understand and whose consequences they can only fear. How do we explain the current Middle East monstrosity to children? My ten year old son looked away when I tried to talk to him. It was as if the whole thing was too confusing and cruel to discuss.

But when has society seen children as a barometer of progress? When have adults given voice to their feelings, hopes and aspirations? How will the credit crunch impact on children? All I can see in UK is vote-buying and white collar corruption for power. The innocence of children is worthy of abuse say the politicians, in a subtle tactless way. Well they are wrong. It is children who remind us about love, kindness, sharing and happiness. It is they who show us selfless and unconditional love.

I heard a programme on BBC Radio 4 about how the Affluenza virus is a particular problem for English nations and someone asked whether this has any cultural causality. To me this is a clear problem, but rarely is there such a self-examination, except perhaps through humour. There is far too much pride at stake. British culture really needs to be put under the microscope to build lasting peace in Britain. No less will do.