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Harry and Meghan: A teachable moment

by | Mar 16, 2021

Questions around the colour of children in mixed families are common and not surprising says Buki Mosaku, Bias Navigation expert and author of the forthcoming book: I don’t understand? – A Practical Guide to Navigating Bias in the workplace. What matters here, as elsewhere, is how these questions come up – and how they are dealt with.

“As an expert in workplace bias, I don’t necessarily have all the answers to the dilemma facing the Royal Family following the interview that Harry and Meghan gave to Oprah Winfrey. But some lessons do cut across.”

First: preparation is everything. All those involved would have benefited from careful (counselling) discussion about the public and private impact of this relationship which was a first for this institution and as such, the country. Such preparation, involving honest and open family discussion, is always important. In this case it was vital, not least because the ramifications, that could so easily have been predicted, are far greater when the Royal Family are involved.

Second: separate what is really racist and fight that. The clumsy and offensive question about the colour of Harry and Meghan’s future son needs to be placed in context. Are we really surprised? How many other people, in a similar situation, might have had similar thoughts? Having anxiety and concerns around race might be crude and somewhat offensive but does not necessarily make one a racist. Negative acts of discrimination do, and they are what we really should be talking about here. This doesn’t diminish the enormity of racist allegations made– at least based on the side of the story we’ve heard so far – but there is a large dose of naivety and hypocrisy in the narrative we are hearing from many quarters. This includes the interviewer whose ‘jaw-drop’ reactions felt a bit disingenuous given the grim realities of race relations in the United States. Oprah please: pick your jaw up off the floor and stop throwing stones from your enormous glass house! A similar message is appropriate for the mainstream press, much of which was happily complicit in the race-based vilification of Meghan from the very beginning.

Third: Acknowledge and Navigate. Most people in mixed marriages- whether mixed in terms of race, religion, tribe, cast, class or other ‘difference’ have similar unspoken concerns in terms of how things will work out. When these concerns are suppressed, when they are not addressed, tensions build up and lead to the unfortunate eruption of thoughts and emotions that have the potential to deeply damage family relationships even before they properly start. This is an all-too-common occurrence that, in Meghan and Harry’s situation, could certainly have been handled better, and of course when it’s the Royal Family the situation is compounded. Tackling bias effectively in social and family situations and tackling bias in the workplace might be very different but they have one thing in common. Both must be acknowledged and navigated. Without that, misunderstanding, resentment and collective loss is inevitable.

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