Diversity and Inclusion
This discussion guide is designed to get you and your colleagues learning and talking about racism and the Black British experience. This guide forms part of a weekly discussion group series that we created for the UK’s Black History Month, which runs throughout October. If you found this guide useful or would like to share some feedback, get in touch with us here.
The Question, as British journalist Afua Hirsch calls it, is a simple one:
“Where are you from?”
It’s a seemingly innocent question and Hirsch acknowledges that there is rarely malice in The Question — usually it’s just curiosity.
So what’s the problem?
As Hirsch writes in her book, Brit(ish),
…being asked where you’re from in your own country is a daily ritual of unsettling… It’s never the first thing white people get asked in a regular social encounter, it’s not an upfront demand for information, it’s not requested with such insistence that it becomes almost a condition of further interaction. The Question is reserved for people who look different.
The Question is a familiar one to people of colour in the UK. Sometimes it’s more overtly followed up with, “where are you really from?”, as truthful answers like “London” fail to satisfy the real root of the asker’s curiosity.
In an excerpt of Hirsch’s book Brit(ish) edited for The Financial Times, we’ll discuss the experience of people of colour in Britain the exclusion faced on a daily basis.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Time: 1 hour (plus an additional 15 mins to read the resource)
Resources: Key resource, discussion questions, anything you usually need for any remote joiners
This guided discussion will:
⚡ Reveal the impact of The Question, “where are you from?”.
⚡ Encourage your team to share and listen to personal experiences of microaggressions
⚡ Explore “covering” and how it feels to cover
⚡ Ask everyone to think about what it means to belong in Britain and how we build and unpick the belonging of others
Key resource: Excerpt of Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish) (15 mins)
🔗 Link: https://www.foyles.co.uk/blog-afua-hirsch-extract
One week before
✅ Send out an email and calendar invitation including the link and discussion questions.
One day before
✅ Send a reminder to everyone to read the key resource before the session. Note down some of your own thoughts which you can share to prompt others to do the same
On the day
✅ Send a follow-up email to thank participants and to re-share the resource and questions with anyone who couldn’t attend.
Each week, we dip into the unanswerable, nuanced and gray areas of inclusion and offer, not answers, but inklings.
This resource was taken from our Inclusion Works programme, which was created with a network of more than +100 diverse contributors and advisers. We learn from, amplify and cite creators of different races, ethnicities, genders and cognitive styles and continually work to represent all dimensions of diversity.
More from this collection:
Afua Hirsch on The Question
How inclusive is your online communication? Small changes to late-night emails, the media you read and share, and your email signature can build...
The vast majority of people are well-intentioned and want to be inclusive - but various factors hold them back from stepping up to be an ally