Searching for Elephants - Episode 6
This podcast was first released inside LifeSearch in the late Summer of 2020, we feel it's right to start off 2021 by putting this conversation between Darren Sturdy and Tom Baigrie out into the world.
Darren talks openly and honestly about what it's been like growing up as a black man in Britain and how the death of George Floyd and the BLM movement has, and are, changing things.
Angus - Hello, and Happy New Year. I hope you had a lovely and relaxing Christmas break. For this the first Searching for Elephants of 2021 LifeSearch is rereleasing what was its first ever podcast, a conversation between Darren Sturdy, an advisor of colour at LifeSearch, and Tom Baigrie. The conversation was recorded in the summer of 2020. And released inside the company after the awful death of George Floyd. His death sparked many things. One of them was this interview. So, without further ado, here's Darren, and my dad.
Tom - Thanks Angus and thanks for your work on this. And Darren, thank you for your time. At 11 o'clock on a Sunday morning, How's this for a question? Can you identify your ethnicity and tell us about a moment in a workplace or any other place where you found it necessary to adjust in order to get around racism of any kind?
Darren - So I would identify myself as kind of black British Yeah, that's normally what I sign when I have one of the forms that you know, when they ask. Yeah, it's very tough topic to talk about, really, it's something that obviously has come to light more and more recently, since April time with the with the death of George Floyd, more so people who aren't of colour. And because as black people, it's something that we constantly feel like we live through. But when something is seen as graphic, as it was, on the TV screens that we all saw, we all saw the video, then you can't help as a human being but be touched by that. And it's opened up some good dialogue with friends, family work colleagues, of people who didn't necessarily realize To what extent it was an issue or to what extent that people of colour feel feel like when they walk to the shops or when they drive their car, or, you know, just go about their daily routine. I guess my first earliest form of it was, I guess it was probably when I first started driving. So when I was 17, passed my driving license of the second time and was looking forward to having a bit more freedom from my parents without having to ask for lifts everywhere. But it soon became very apparent that I was getting stopped at least once every couple of months, I was getting pulled over for, for nothing really wasn't really doing anything, just driving. I've got a friend of mine who's from Mauritius. He's quite dark skinned. He it was happening to him all the time. And a lot of my other white friends weren't having an issue with it, and would never be pulled never been pulled over. The only time they'd been pulled over when they were sat in my car. But my mum did sit down with me and have a conversation in relation to, I guess how I was supposed to behave in, in, in any kind of environment really, she kind of explained to me the way that we are portrayed, and how we are kind of thought of, by by people who don't necessarily look like us. And she always said to me, you know, be polite, be courteous, don't ruffle any feathers. You know, if you see if you if you do something wrong, you know, admit it, apologize straight away and just be courteous, because she said that you won't get the kind of same opportunity that people who don't like you will get but I guess it's this conversation that a lot of my black friends and pretty much all black families have actually had with each other, you know, you will be seen differently. You know, you're always kind of taught to work twice as hard as the people that you that you've come across, you know, we're going for an interview, I make sure that I'm looking as smart as I possibly can be because it's something that I'm conscious of, and I guess I just don't want them to feel like that my colour is an issue, which is quite sad in a way because you know you should be portrayed and how you are as a person rather than what you look like. But unfortunately, it's something that is in your subconscious as a black person that you are very aware of, in any situation that you find yourself in, you know, have been times when I've been in shops and been followed by myself, you know, looking relatively smart. So, the older you get, the more you try and see, you know even more this kind of thing becomes more apparent. And a lot of times it's very subtle. I think a lot of times people don't necessarily realize they're at Doing it, you know, that kind of thing I kind of, you know, brush off and kind of let it go. But if someone was, I felt directly, you know, having some form of agenda or racist agenda towards me, I would call it out, regardless of who it was or the situation I was in. Because I feel like if I let it slide, then the people around them may feel actually Well, that's okay to say, you know, Darren didn't say anything when I said this, or that I shouldn't have to let things slide, I shouldn't let kind of underhanded comments go, you know, I need to if I want things to change, I have to start with myself, in terms of when I see something like that, you know, addressing in terms of a working environment. Again, you know, I found myself, you know, I felt like, I have to work twice as hard, you know, if I was to go for any sort of promotion, you know, that would be something I would always think about, like, would I not get it because I am black. As an individual, I feel like I'm intelligent enough to be able to kind of put myself to most things without having that extra thought in my head of, well, you won't get this because of that. And it's also black women that feel the same way as black men. And I think that's actually important to get across. Because I think a lot of the times we see young black men in situations where they're kind of being profiled, but it's not just men, this is also black females as well. So I think that's important to mention also.
Tom - And absolutely right, I wanted to pick up on one aspect of what you've said, How do we change the mindset of those who would not consider themselves racist? would not say racist things, but would nonetheless demonstrate to you or indeed any acute observer, that they are? Really?
Darren - Yeah, that's a very hard question to answer. Because a lot of this kind of behaviour is is, is seen as I said it's so subtle that you may not even necessarily know know that it's happening, just the way some of the language that's used is different. There was a video that I saw of looting, I think it was the UK actually. And there were lots of black boys, women running in and out of the shop, there was white people there too running out the shop. And they were the language used was it's abhorrent, these people are thugs and criminals, etc. Then there was a white lady who probably in a 40s, maybe, maybe slightly younger, walked out the shop stuffing clothes in a handbag. The way that you described her was I hope she's an employee. And the News Reporters didn't even realise properly what they were doing. But it was just so kind of obvious to me as a person of colour that they were very subtly saying, well, let's let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Which, as black people, we feel that we don't get a lot of time, you know, we I kind of use the phrase that we're kind of presumed guilty until proven innocent. So to kind of answer your question directly, it's very hard to kind of get around that. Because I feel that this kind of that kind of behaviour is more of a learned experience that you may not even realise just by looking at media or speaking with friends, you know, that kind of thing that it can be picked up a lot along the way. But I think like most things, I think, you know, educating yourself on these kind of topics and actually speaking to people about it is a way that actually when you think about something or make another decision, you might might get you to think twice.
Tom - I think you're right, I think the hopefully those listening to this will will get the point will adjust their tonality, or make a conscious effort to adjust their tonality. Yeah, it is talking about it. And that is a form of education. Perhaps that could be the best route. My question to you is really a tough one for you to answer but I just want you to be absolutely honest and brave. How should and could LifeSearch improve in this regard? What can we do to be not just not overtly racist or not racist at all, but actually anti racist? How can we reduce racism?
Darren - To be fair, I've never I've never really I've never felt raised has been an issue since I came to LifeSearch. You know, even when I came from my interview and did my induction and did my role plays and went to Leeds for two weeks I had a pleasant experience with everybody that I that I came across as a company, we always we are very good in terms of, you know, looking at social issues in terms of things that are happening in the wider environment outside of insurance, I think where we could improve as a company, if if I was to be, you know, a little bit critical in some ways was, I think, the Chiefs part of LifeSearch. For me, if I saw a young, black or Asian person as one of the Chiefs within the business that to me, we think that is something for me to aspire to get to. And that is something for me, that would push me to want to move up within the framework of the company, even more so than my own personal drive and ambition. You know, I because I, myself, I look at people who, who are black, or, you know, of colour within the company and actually want to aspire to them, you know, Adam Chaudhry is my is my is my manager. So I look at him, and I'm like, okay, but he's got to this position, you know, PK, you know, Leon Golding in Leeds, you know, he's a team leader. So, you know, it is something that I do look at and look at, where people are in what positions they are in and how they've got there. And think, okay, I just need to, if I I'm, I believe that if I get my head down and do what I need to do, then I will get to where I want it wherever it is, I want to get to, but millions of companies across the world have the same same issue, where you look at boards, board members or, you know, people in high positions, and predominantly they are white, so I think there should be, you know, a push to kind of, you know, push people, whether it be through recruitment, or whether it be through kind of having, you know, talks with people who are of ethnic groups, which we are doing, actually through our Movie Club, which has been really, really good. But I think just having people in, in, in areas of authority, actually, I think that's probably what I want to say is areas of authority where people have the, the voice to make decisions, which would then you wouldn't even realise it would filter down to everybody who is of colour within the company, because they would see that and think right, that is where I can get to I can see that this company pushes people who looked like me or who are of colour. And actually, that would be something that would really inspire I think a lot of the people of ethnicities within within LifeSearch.
Tom - Will give that a go Darren. Will give that exactly a go. Thank you. For your time and wonderful communication skills. I can tell what why you're you're a great advisor, because it was it was all very, very good stuff. Very good stuff. Thank you and have a lovely Sunday. And well, I'm going to London on Monday, believe it or not, I am going into the office.
Darren - Amazing, yeah, I do. I do miss everyone. To be honest, I do miss everyone in the office. It'd be nice to go back and see everyone soon.
Angus - I want to thank Darren again for sharing his experience. It's not a comfortable thing to do. As I said in the introduction, Darren's interview was recorded in July 2020. And as well as the Black Lives Matter movement inspired the creation of the fairness and diversity squad, which Darren along with many others sits on today. I'm going to be talking to members of that group in the next episode of Searching for Elephants. Talking about what has and has not changed for the better. That'll be released on Monday, the 18th of January. But all that's coming later. I hope you are making as good a start as you can to 2021 it's tough going. And I hope you listen in next week. It's gonna be a good one. Thanks so much for listening. Lots of love. LifeSearch.