During the 5th September TV programming of Britain’s Got Talent, the dance troupe Diversity, known as the 2009 winners of the talent show, performed a moving tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement. By 10th September, the media regulator OfCom had received over 10,000 complaints, and just four days later, the number of complaints had doubled. This backlash comes mere weeks after an Argos advertisement aired featuring an all Black family happily gathered in a garden, which also received numerous complaints from viewers for not catering to their white audience.
What does this ‘backlash’ communicate? It tells us that “progress” is not linear, and that those who benefit from a system of oppression in our workplaces or society more broadly cannot be those who set the timeline for change. It also informs us of the resolve we require when embarking on change. It isn’t possible to re-organise power – which is what inclusion and equity are about – without some people and certain groups for whom this change represents a threat, resisting the process openly or loudly even. That friction will happen, and if not, it’s likely that the strategy being deployed is superficial and thus no progress will materialise. When we propose delay, at whose expense are we prepared to do so? Who continues to benefit from this delay? And when would we expect those for whom the status quo works to ever put their full force en masse behind changes that shifts their position within society?
When working on inclusion and equity in companies, we often hear “we aren’t ready for this yet”. And so our question in response is: who isn’t ready?
Because people of colour are ready. Disabled folks are ready. Trans people are ready. Muslim people are ready. Jewish people are ready. LGBTQIA+ people are ready. Women are ready. Working class people are ready. In fact, they have been ready for quite some time actually.
Progress can no longer wait nor can it be superficial.