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Diversity & Decolonisation Training

An invitation to some training from the Deep Adaptation (DA) team arrived one day, addressed to me as a volunteer. As a relative newbie, I felt a really pleasant sense of belonging – ‘I’m part of the group now!’. Then that realisation of belongingness tapped me on the shoulder, when I saw what the training is about: diversity and decolonisation, and how people like me can deny that precious “belongingness” to others.

Erase and Rewind. Photo and digital artwork by Cat Jenkins

I live on the Isle of Man, a relatively small, relatively (though not exclusively) well-to-do white country close to the UK. As with many Western countries, we have a Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and a People of Colour (POC) group, driven mostly by young, articulate and politically alert people. Demographically, we probably have fewer people of colour on our island than in the neighbouring UK, though that has been changing in recent years. 

I’ve always liked to think of myself as someone who’s loving and inclusive, non-discriminatory, who sees people just as people – valuable and vulnerable, exactly like me. I’ve chosen to weave that into my identity, how I perceive myself. But telling myself that, and imagining that’s how I would behave if the opportunity arose, is quite different to acting out my values in real life.  I’ve more than once caught myself tongue-tied, watching others for cues, afraid of saying or doing something unintentionally discriminatory. I haven’t liked myself much for that cowardice, and I haven’t always fully understood it or what to do about it. It’s made me more than a bit ashamed.

More concerningly (for me), though, I’m also wondering whether I have rigorously and honestly interrogated my own underlying prejudices and unconscious sense of privilege. I’d be a fool to imagine I don’t have those biases – I’m human, after all, with all the frailties of character that brings with it.  Better to take a deep breath, and a good hard look at the way I speak, write, act and – ouch! – think and feel; to see what work I need to do, what entitlement or stereotypes or fears I might need to banish. It’s not always fun examining the murky corners of ourselves, but it’s usually valuable, freeing and growth-y. And the right thing to do.

So I sighed, mentally rolled my eyes, and thought, ‘Better get on with it’.

I shed that slightly resigned feeling, though, when I read on; it was replaced by a real sense of excitement. The training’s been tailored for DA by Nonty C. Sabic, a gifted educator in anti-racism and decolonisation and, from what I’ve seen, she’s not only an expert and experienced educator but a joy to spend time with (even if only in a limited, online sense!).

She speaks beautifully and empoweringly: “Racism was done and it can be undone through effective community, individual and institutional change”.I love that directness: it can be done. And I want to be part of that!  Her aim is to teach DA staff and volunteers how to address the range of structures that embed systemic and individual racism – including how that can show up in those of us who think of ourselves as ‘progressives’. I really, really look forward to this – it’s so easy for me to spot the speck of racism in the eyes of others, but I need to become aware of, and attend to, any planks in my own. And knowing that I’ll be doing this with good-hearted, like-minded people from the DA movement makes me feel … well,  safe. Safe to show my own vulnerability and shortcomings, and grateful for the chance to make it a safer, more egalitarian environment for others.

I genuinely can’t wait – I think it’ll be life changing for me, and might help me play my small part in changing the lives of others! I’ll report back after the training!

Cat lives in the Isle of Man, a small island close to the UK. After 30 years in the finance sector (overlapping with time lecturing and authoring), she now writes and consults on financial governance, ecological/social/tax justice, sustainable practices and legislation – and the interactions between these areas. She also works with a homeless charity and is a director of She’s a Methodist and mother of twin 14-year old girls.

anti-racism, diversity

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