• Viana Maya

Black Female Contribution Erased - Again.

Too often, black Women's contributions are ignored or erased from the conversation, whether in discussion panels or the workplace.

We put our time and energy into the space, and we ensure everyone is heard and included in the conversation. Yet after the work is done, those we share the table with choose to exclude and erase our contribution. Privately patting themselves on the back or virtually thanking everyone but the black woman who was also a part of igniting the conversation and contributing suggestions and ideas to support the people in the room.

Yesterday I was invited to contribute my expertise alongside a panel of other professionals in the third sector. While my team hasn’t posted on Linkedin yet, we ensured on our other social media that all the expert speakers were tagged.

One, because we value all the contributions and two, we believe in equality in sharing the space.

This post by CEMVO is a perfect example of the subtle act of exclusion and everyday microaggression.

I choose to view the post as a conscious bias post. Primarily since the post was written and shared with a photo of four people on the panel. Yet the post's writer chose only to thank the three men on the panel - one of whom was the debate moderator and not a panellist. Did the thought of checking the name of the female panellist cross the mind of the writer? If not, why not? If they chose not to attribute the only female panellist, why not find and use an image of just the three men?

Consciously or unconsciously the post writer did not care that they did not know the name of the female panellist or see her as an expert, compared to the men present.

Although I am using the female gender as the contributing factor, I can’t help but wonder whether this would have happened if I had been a white woman. This is why issues around racism can’t be viewed in isolation. Racism, conscious or otherwise, is an intersectional and multi-layered issue.

So even when our pictures are taken, we are invisible, almost a token gesture for representation, not for our expertise and the value we bring to the conversation.

I wanted to highlight this issue because it happens every day. Not always as publicly or embarrassingly as this post but behind closed doors black women are excluded or erased even when they contribute or do the bulk of the work. We are expected to be grateful and accept invisible gestures. For example, Colin Lee (CEO of CEMVO) himself mentioned during the discussion that a big problem with the current funding model is that large, already well-funded organisations, have the resources to make applications for funding projects for which they have no expertise and when they win these, they then seek out ethnic minority-led micro-organisations to actually deliver the content. Meanwhile, those minority-led organisations are running on volunteers often even at the management level.

It's particularly important for an organisation such as CEMVO to be made aware of their not-so-subtle act of exclusion as they are in the business of educating other organisations in the anti-racism and inclusion culture. So they must practise what they preach.

In this case, I have sat back and given CEMVO time to correct their post because Manish Joshi was kind enough to recognise the exclusion and try to correct it by including me in the list of contributors, but it seems to have gone over CEMVO’s head.

Unfortunately, I am not in the business of becoming someone's stock image. I will not have my contribution erased or ignored and I believe it's my responsibility to call these situations out for learning opportunities and to encourage us all to have these frank and honest conversations.

Why this is a Learning moment:

We are currently running our Active Learning Acti-Racism and Allyship program. Our programs are designed for long-term / lifelong learning.

We are now in Stage 2 where we are discussing how to recognise everyday racism and microaggression. I am encouraging our learners/organisations to use this post as a learning tool on how to spot racist/sexist microaggression (intersectionality).

And when you notice, what do you do about it?

  • You should ask who is the fourth person at the table?

  • What is their name?

  • Why are only men receiving the recognition and thanks?

And if you were present on the day, do what Manish did and tag the person who was excluded from the post.

And if you find yourself being excluded publicly like this, feel free to connect with me and use this letter as a template.

I look forward to having the conversation with CEMVO and other organisations that wish to avoid these Not-so-subtle acts of exclusion in the future.

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