Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People
December 24th, 2013

A Visit to Marks & Spencer

I’ve just got come from a shopping trip to Marks & Spencer and I must say that I’m pleased to have learnt before I left that they will not be implementing a policy which would have given Muslim staff permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products. Ref: The Telegraph, 23rd December 2013 (Muslim staff at Marks & Spencer can refuse to sell alcohol and pork)

You see, if such a policy had been in place, knowing that I would have an alcholic drink or two for Christmas in my shopping basket heading towards the check out, I would have scanned the members of staff and if anyone looked like a Muslim, I would not gone in their direction. I would have headed somewhere else because I didn’t want to have to queue up only to be told to go somewhere else. I would have got into this habit and in time I’d have probably done so even if I wasn’t buying alcohol or pork based products.

Don’t ask me how I would have determined whether staff members were Muslim or not. I’d have probably used stereotypes. If a staff member was wearing a head scarf of some kind, it would be obvious – wouldn’t it be? Outside of that I would have used the presumed ethnic origin of the staff member or whatever others assumptions I had stored in my mind.

Situations may have occurred whereby a “Muslim looking” staff member would have been waiting at a till to serve customers and I would walk past to someone else, even if there was a queue. The “Muslim” member of staff would have wondered why I was ignoring him or her.

If it was just me that started acting this way, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, however, I suspect that I would be one of many reacting in such a manner – consciously or subconsciously.  If I reacted in such a manner, my behaviour would have been seen as odd – if I was white, the counter-assumption would have probably been made that I was racist.

The good thing is that Marks & Spencer has decided not to go ahead with the implementation of this policy and I understand that they have even apologised for even thinking of doing so. As I result, today I went to Marks & Spencer with a smile on my face to the cashier with the shortest queue with no further thought. I can also continue to shop at Marks and Spencer without the risk of offending any member of staff at the store.


Copyright 2013 This document is the specific intellectual property of the Conning Towers Consultancy. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.








May 7th, 2012

Showing Racism The Red Card

Show Racism The Red Card

I was recently invited to participate in a “Show Racism The Red Card” parade.

Symbolically it was great  – all the people (predominantly primary school children) – walking around the football pitch

However, although it might not be the objective:
•    I wish there had been a brief announcement highlighting the significance of what was happening as people walked around the field in order to focus people’s mind on what the parade was about and why it was important
•    I wish the parade was closer to kick off  time as opposed to half an hour before the match when the stadium was almost empty.
•    I also wish that the people in the parade truly represented the diversity of the local community – most especially, I wish it was more representative of the people that racism is typically directed at.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

January 8th, 2012

The Enduring Issue of Racism

I was up late on Friday night – I couldn’t sleep. I therefore logged on to twitter  -just to see what was going on.  I noticed that Stan Collymore was trending together with someone named Tom Adeyemi (who I hadn’t previously heard of).  Bored and with “nothing better to do” I clicked on each name to find out why they were trending.

First I clicked on Stan Collymore’s name.  I discovered that with no apparent reason, someone had decided to rein racial abuse on him via twitter. Stan had got fed up with it and reported it to the police. As a result, the man in question had deleted his twitter account. Stan had, however, had the foresight to take photos of the abusive messages, which he posted on twitter. After a visit from the police, he also posted part of his police statement – I guess to make it clear that he would not tolerate such behaviour.

Reading the commentary on this case, a number of people expressed shock at the language and behaviour of the perpetuator who was described as a 21-year-old law student. Others commended Stan for dealing decisively with this case. I was, however, somewhat befuddled to find that there were a number expressing the view that Stan should not have dealt with the situation in public and posted the comments and/or he should have said nothing in public until the matter was resolved.  I was befuddled because I wondered what made people think that how he dealt with the matter even required commentary. Was it not more pertinent that such abuse had taken place than how he decided to report the situation?  Furthermore, I believe it’s important that we are made aware of what is really going on.

Before I talk about the case of Tom Adeyemi, I’ll explain why.

Back in November 2011, a woman was recorded swearing abusively on a tram in Croydon.  Punctuating every other sentence with the F word, she was addressing the passengers that she saw as foreigners and not English, telling them to go back to their own countries.  I don’t know what set her off, but she was later arrested.

Shortly afterwards I posted a thought on twitter, pondering “I’ve been reflecting on the racist ranting of the woman on the Croydon tram – I wonder what % of the British population share her views”

Someone responded saying “Very few I think (and hope)”

I was a bit surprised by what I will describe as his innocence and went on to say “I suspect there are many that share the concerns of the Croydon tram woman. Difference is it’s not publically expressed”

Separate from this, the recent trials and convictions in the Stephen Lawrence case have brought the issue of race to the forefront. The challenge of this is that it’s possible for people to conclude that this was a negative era in our past for which justice has now been done allowing us to close the chapter and move on.

The truth, however, is that although fortunately we have most definitely come along way, we still have a long way to go.  This is not only illustrated by the Stan Collymore case and the Croydon tram incident, but also the case of Tom Adeyemi.

So back to my Twitter explorations… I clicked on Tom Adeyemi’s name and discovered that he is young football player who it seems was racially abused during a football matched. As illustrated by the photographs taken of him immediately after the incident, he appears to be so distressed by the incident that he is virtually in tears. I don’t know what exactly it is that was said to him, but it seems that as result of the incident the game was actually paused for a few minutes.  As you’ll probably be aware there have also been other cases in football as of later, with some interesting responses from some people in positions of authority who have at times belittled the situations or who have without question tried to protect the player against whom allegations have been made.

There is no question, we have come along way, but I believe we need to be honest and recognise that we still have a long way to go.  I’m particular concerned that the alleged abusers of both Stan Collymore and Tom Adeyemi are both very young i.e. 21 and 20 respectively.  I mention age, because at that age they are more than likely to have grown up and schooled with people of colour.  The 21 year old is said to be a law student. It’s early days yet and this is yet to be the confirmed, but assuming he is a law student how well is our education system working in enabling young people to have a more positive view about race or are other influences just too strong? Before you say anything, I’ll reiterate – yes, I know its early days and I recognise that some may say that these are isolated incidents.  I will, however, respond and say that I don’t believe I would have to look too far to find similar incidents (unreported and/or with less public figures) across the country.

The tram case still weighs heavily on my mind as whilst regardless of what set her off, there was no excuse for that ladies language or behaviour, there are concerns that she expressed in relation to foreigners, jobs and immigration that are shared by a number of people in this country.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated