Earlier this morning I was listening to a podcast that touched on the subject of a man appointed as a Government Advisor who had historically published highly inappropriate views in relation to eugenics; the opinion that some black people have lower IQs amongst things. Even though they were historically comments, there was nothing to suggest that his views had changed. When his comments came to light, there was a public outcry that ultimately leading to his resignation.
The discussion on the podcast touched on the selection and vetting process for such positions. One of the contributors spoke of the need to take care of recruiting people into such sensitive positions as their discriminatory views have an impact on people – even if their views don’t directly impact upon policy.
Another contributor tried to move the discussion on, speaking of the need not to forget the bigger picture with the importance of getting skilled people on board.
The truth is, in whatever environment, there is a need to have a bigger picture i.e a vision and strategy of what the organisation is trying to achieve. It is important to recruit people with the right skills to achieve those objectives i.e. with a diversity in thinking, experience and background.
I believe, the challenge is to balance everything out. It shouldn’t be a case of diversity of any kind without the fit to the bigger picture or someone that fits a box without the right capabilities for the role. At the same time, whilst it’s necessary to work towards and keep the bigger picture in mind, it’s crucial to create a psychologically safe atmosphere that keep the humanity of the people that helping to achieve those objectives and the various stakeholders in mind.
The podcast with the rush to focus on the bigger picture reminded me of a recent incident at a football match in Portugal. From the footage, it seems that Moussa Marega, a black player was racially abused during the match. He decided that it wasn’t acceptable and that he wouldn’t continue to play under the circumstances. As he determinedly walked away asking to be substituted, a number of his teammates came alongside him and tried to talk to him and hold him back. Even a couple of players from the other team tried to talk to him, however, he insisted on leaving. Ironically, he was substituted with another black player.
There’s the argument that the best response to the racism would have been for him to have continued to play and to have supported his team in winning. Some others would say his whole team should have stood in solidarity with him and abandoned the game in solidarity with him – it would definitely have had more of an impact. There are others who would say that there is a need to focus on the bigger picture – abandoning the game may have led to a loss of points with wider ramifications for the team. But maybe that’s the risk and even a sacrifice that needs to be made to bring about change.
Ultimately, as with most other such situations, it is complex and it would be a mistake to try and oversimplify the situation. The truth, though is that something has to give – it can’t be acceptable for football players to be continually racially abused; or for people to be discriminated against and be subject to people and environments that leave them feeling psychologically unsafe. As such, at the very least, there is a need for fully dialogue with a focus on both gaining a deeper understanding of the issues and a way forward.
Human Value Optimisation Specialist
Developing a Mosaic World