With the #BlackLivesMatter movement sending ripples around the world on top of the #COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to adjust to the ‘new normal’ are underway and the #OccupationalTherapy profession is no exception. Over the years there has been repeating and intermittent awareness of the need to increase inclusive representation within the profession. Talk needs to be followed by action, and more needs to be done in order to lead to sustainable change. We need to address the systems and processes that make real lasting change difficult. It is not just about making people who don’t usually represent the typical presentation of an #occupational therapist, fit the mould, but about embracing the diversity and strengths that widening access and participation has to offer our profession, and more importantly the people we serve. Moving forward we need to continue to build alliances within the professional membership, regardless of skin colour and ethnicity, to have a depth of impact in change. We can do this as a profession with the help of local activity, diverse local champions, diverse local leaders and @theRCOT.
This #OTalk presents an opportunity to share our thoughts on this subject, in light of the recent #BlackLivesMatter events and the public health report highlighting that #BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) communities are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We would like to emphasise (and for the RCOT to take note) that focus on the BAME community should be regularly reviewed and discussed. This will keep the subject an explicitly ever present agenda for the profession in order to challenge and change structural based inequality. We also acknowledge that while the term BAME can be problematic, it can be helpful for exploring issues of representation. If in doubt ask the person their preferred term of reference.
This discussion on occupational therapy and UK-based BAME communities is part of an #OTalk series on topics of diversity. Other topics to be explored later include: Disability (including Neurodiversity), LGBTQIA+ and Gender Issues.
Some preliminary groundwork in preparation for this series is encouraged:
- Look Deep. Acknowledge any privileges you may have. This resource on Privilege and Intersectionality may help: https://guides.rider.edu/privilege
- Come to the chats with an open mind and heart and be prepared to feel uncomfortable – it is through discomfort that we can begin to make the necessary changes.
- We need to unite to be actively against (anti) any forms of prejudice / oppression.
- As always, respect each others’ views and acknowledge that there will undoubtedly be differences of opinion.
- Develop an awareness of microaggressions and be mindful of how they may impact the colleagues you are interacting with on this topic: https://www.vox.com/2015/2/16/8031073/what-are-microaggressions
- Accept that you will make mistakes and if these are pointed out, reflect on them and make the necessary changes.
- Be clear about the differences between Inequality, Equality, Equity, and Justice. Check out this graphic created by @lunchbreath based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.
Questions for the #OTalk chat will be as follows:
1 A) How ethnically diverse do you perceive our profession to be now? B) Has this changed over the course of your time as an OT? (Q Hosted by @Occ4LifeLtd)
2 A) Why would we want to encourage more people from BAME backgrounds to enter the profession? B) Does the OT staff group in your area represent the population you serve? (Q Hosted by @sherriikapp)
3 A) What racial / cultural discrimination have you experienced, seen or even perpetrated (even unconsciously)? B) What did you do about it? (Q Hosted by @KwakuOT)
4 A) What barriers do BAME occupational therapists face for progression into roles in leadership, academia and research? Please refer to the list of questions prepared by @HannahtheOT https://twitter.com/HannahtheOT/status/1267852336443150341 (How many Black lecturers / placement educators / managers have you had? Can you name 10 Black OTs you’ve worked with throughout your career? Can you name 10 white OTs? Name an OT theory, model or standardised assessment developed by a Black OT? How many articles/books have you read that were written by a Black OT?) (Q Hosted by @MwelaSihle)
5 A) What responsibility do you / will you take for exploring and educating yourself on issues of race and culture? B) What is one change you can make tomorrow? (Q Hosted by @LecturerMish)
Some useful resources:
*Will COVID-19 be a watershed moment for health inequalities: https://www.health.org.uk/publications/long-reads/will-covid-19-be-a-watershed-moment-for-health-inequalities
*AHP Leaders Podcast: Changing the Culture of Conversations (featuring AHP leaders from across the UK)
*The OT & Chill @ot_chill podcast, Episode 11 – L . O . V . E – Let’s Talk About Race #BLACKLIVESMATTER: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4sPh0qghwAiozaXLSM0re2
Akala deconstructs race, class, and Britain’s modern myths | Unfiltered with James O’Brien #32 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atfVUgyEIOI
Dr Karen Whalley Hammell WFOT Congress 2018 keynote ‘Building globally relevant occupational therapy from the strength of our diversity’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WipUPXx_Kk&t=7s
*George Floyd, Minneapolis Protests, Ahmaud Arbery & Amy Cooper | The Daily Social Distancing Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4amCfVbA_c
Hey White Therapist! Here’s where we start! https://courses.clearlyclinical.com/courses/free-ceu-racial-awareness
Why I am no Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo Lodge: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/30/why-im-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race (this is the preview article for the book)
Guidance for white allies who are trying to help https://ladders4action.org/news-blogs-videos/blog/do-no-harm/
Why “I’m not racist” is only half the story by Robin DiAngelo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzLT54QjclA (a good summary of her book ‘White Fragility’)
A few real life scenarios to get you thinking:
In one occupational therapist’s work place it was identified that approximately 50% of inmates in a prison setting are from BAME backgrounds, with only 10% accessing occupational therapy services. Many reported discomfort in accessing services as they felt that the staff body was not representative of their backgrounds and lacked understanding of where they were coming from.
A Black occupational therapist received comments from a supervisor which suggested that they were perceived as lazy and uneducated. This Black colleague felt they had to work ten times as hard as white counterparts and also sees white colleagues get away with things they are reprimanded for.
A white Muslim occupational therapist who wears a hijab went to an interview and saw visible shock on the interviewer’s face. Feedback suggests that she couldn’t have answered the questions differently but she wasn’t offered the job.
A Black student turns up to a university admissions interview wearing jeans – they demonstrate more knowledge and insight than a white student who comes wearing a suit or smart attire. Which applicant gets awarded a place on the programme?
This #OTalk session and blogpost was made possible through the contributions of:
Sihle Mwela @MwelaSihle
Kwaku Agyemang @KwakuOT
Jo Bresi-Ando @otStones
Musharrat Ahmed-Landeryou @LecturerMish
Elaine Rutherford @Cariad_OT
Jou Yin, Teoh @teohjouyin
Grace Chikelu Amamilo (not on Twitter)
Kirsty Stanley @Occ4LifeLtd or @kirstyes
Somia Jan @SomiaOT
Carolyn Connage @CarolynOT
Nichole Yam @nicholeyam
Ed Sum @musedNeuroOT
Sophia Awan @Sophia OT
Yasmin Anisuddin Ward @Yazz_OT
Geraldine Kinkead-Richards @GeriLKR
Hannah Daisy @HannahtheOT
Simone Welch @Simzy_x
Ally Plusii @Ally56642911
Sheri Braimah @sheriefeb
One change our group thought was that RCOT could easily introduce is to appoint an Equality and Diversity Officer dedicated to organising research, study, networking and publicity events, and for influencing policy. A diversity mentorship / support scheme was also suggested to provide opportunities for people to discuss common issues. It would also be useful to have some dedicated webpage resources similar to those on the CSP website – https://www.csp.org.uk/workplace/equality-diversity. Do keep informed on the RCOT progress following the RCOT BAME Big Conversation – a summary of which will be posted on their new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion pages here – https://www.rcot.co.uk/equality-diversity-and-inclusion
Some immediate actions you can take:
Vote for Dr Kee Hean, Lim @lim_hean to be member of the RCOT Council. He is the sole candidate to represent the BAME population and has a long, consistent track record of enabling equitable student recruitment and retention at Brunel University London. The Brunel University London student body has 30-50% BAME representation thanks to the efforts of Kee Hean and his fellow admissions tutor Dr Ayana Ifekoya. The Brunel University London occupational therapy team have a tweet thread documenting their recent efforts contributing towards Racial and Cultural Equity: https://twitter.com/OTatBrunel/status/1281145935502942209
Please consider answering the call for stories, poems, comics, etc for an eBook “We Are OT: a brief history and personal accounts of diversity in the profession of occupational therapy within the UK” to be published on World Occupational Therapy Day 2020. https://occupation4life.co.uk/2020/06/05/we-are-ot/