Progress Does Not Always Equate To Change

6 July 2019
6 July 2019 Dr. P. Baptiste

I had the pleasure of attending the Reach Society’s networking event on 31.05.2019. The topic of discussion was ‘how do we increase diversity in the sport media industry?’. It was an absolute honour and pleasure to be in a room full of people who have achieved and will go on to achieve so much in their respective fields and beyond.

The discussion prompted this article. I made a point about ongoing conversations and these conversations being repeated and ultimately not culminating in the change we would like to see. There are often a lot of ‘Why’s?’ instead of a consistent and collaborative commitment to action and strategy. I am going to use this space to articulate what I meant by that.

Before I start, I want to define progress. What does it mean? According to the Oxford dictionary it means ‘forward or onward movement towards a destination’. So, progress can be seen as positive but it is not the ‘destination’ or end point. OK, so what is change? The Oxford dictionary defines change as to ‘make or become different’.

There has been much progress over the years with regards to race, in particular the racism experienced by earlier generations who came to Britain to start a new life for themselves. However, we see in various fields that racism still exists and I wrote an article about this a few years ago. We have made progress; I can walk down the road and not have someone call me the ‘N- word’. Or can I? In some places this can and does happen. However, we now see racism in an covert form. So has there been progress? Yes. Has there been the change? Yes. But has there been the change that is needed to have a fairer and more equal society? In my opinion, no. If Black people are still being shot at for no reason and footballers are still experiencing derogatory names and actions on and off the field then there has been no significant or the right change in regards to race and racism, in my view. If there is still a lack of representation across fields such as Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Journalism and in particular the upper echelons of those fields, then there has been no significant change.This is progress but not the change we want and need to see.

With regards to the medical field, the statistics for students of African-Caribbean descent are roughly the same year after year. I wrote another article a few years ago which highlighted the under-representation of Black students, but in particular those of Caribbean descent studying medicine and dentistry. I delivered a presentation at the launch of the Armitage Foundation evening during 2018 where I again spoke about the under-representation in the medical profession. During the years 2016-2017, there were ‘3.5% of UK domiciled Black (African, Caribbean and Other) and 24% of Asian students’ studying medicine and dentistry. When we look at the composition of ‘Black students’ we see that 0.4% were ‘Black Caribbean’, 3% were ‘Black African’ and 0.1% were ‘Black other’. There is a similar pattern seen among doctors, and in particular at senior leadership levels. The figures had not changed by much, in fact I would dare to say that they were the same; there was no significant difference. I would also argue that there has been no significant difference since I entered medical school during 2007. I was the only Black student of Caribbean descent out of a year of just over 300 students. Last night, I met another doctor who was also the only student of Black Caribbean descent at her university. Yes, there has been progress but until I see a true and significant shift I will argue that there has not been a change in the status quo, or this change is negligible.

For me, I suppose what I’m trying to say is I have still not seen true equality. We do not have a completely fair society; I doubt there will ever be ‘complete fairness’ in the world in whatever area that may be. There is still no equal access to an ‘excellent education’ across the board for everyone and to higher education.

So what can we do? What action can we take? Whilst I do not want to detract or take away from the amazing progress that has been made by previous generations I need to draw attention to the fact that we need to keep things moving, be smart, work and stay together so that one day there will be a significant change across the board.

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