Let’s talk about that Oprah, Meghan and Harry interview

From a Diversity and Inclusion perspective

I’m going to assume you have seen the Oprah, Meghan and Harry interview, if not in it’s entirety, you will have had to have avoided all media outlets not to at least have been exposed to the headlines surrounding this now infamous interview.

You know by now that I love to pick a topical issues and use it as context to talk about different issues relating to diversity and inclusion, and boy oh boy, did this interview give me a whole heap of stuff to talk about! 

Here are my 5 take aways from the interview:

1. I was shocked that everyone else was shocked!

I was shocked at how shocked everyone seemed to be about claims of racism in the Royal Family.  The British Monarchy is approximately 1,200 years old (according to my very in-depth google search!). It’s an institution built on power and privilege. The Queens personal moto is ‘Never complain, never explain’. Do I need to go on?  Racism is absolutely institutionalised and I can assure you it is present in British culture.  My point here is racism is everywhere, to varying degrees, sure, but I cannot think of one institution or culture where there is unequivocally no racism.

2. isn’t it a little hypercritical?

I wanted to point out the hypocrisy that is often present when we discuss topics relating to diversity and inclusion.  By this I mean there is often a tendency to point fingers rather than reflect on our own behaviour. Racism is a huge issue in America and I for one felt uncomfortable listening to American reporters who work for networks who have been called out for racism, reporting on how unacceptable it is to allow such behaviour to go unpunished! So rather than simply point fingers, why don’t we take this opportunity to reflect on our own behaviour.   

3. it’s not an easy word to hear

The terms racist or racism are incredibly loaded words.  Speaking personally as a white woman still educating myself about race and racism, my first reaction when I hear these words is to back away or become defensive.  It’s not a comfortable space.  Which is why I know its a space I need to spend more time in. Because I feel small in this space, I know there’s an opportunity to grow.  I will hold my hands up and say that I now know that my own unconscious bias has resulted in racist behaviour and I am working on becoming an antiracist. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on how this language makes you feel.

4. the need for psychological safety

Here’s the thing about unconscious bias, we may be able to identify them, but we can’t fully address them unless we create psychological safety.  For me to share with you that I am aware I have been racist in my behaviour opens me up to your judgement and criticism. Can you imagine how the media fallout would have continued if the Royal Family had responded by acknowledging their racist behaviour.  There is so much judgement associated with diversity and inclusion topics and I absolutely understand why BUT if we make people feel like they have to armour up when they enter the field of discussion, how are we ever going to break down the barriers of exclusion?  

5. the power of culture

Deal and Kennedy (1982) defined organizational culture as the way things get done around here. The quote at the top of this mail was taken from the Oprah interview and gives us an insight into the culture of the firm (the term reportedly used by King George when he explained that he and the rest of the royals were “not a family, we’re a firm):

“I was trapped but I didn’t know I was trapped. Like the rest of my family are, my father and my brother, they are trapped. They don’t get to leave and I have huge compassion for that. For the family, they very much have this mentality of: ‘This is just how it is. This is how it’s meant to be. You can’t change it. We’ve all been through it.’ What was different for me was the race element, because now it wasn’t just about her. It was about what she represented”. Prince Harry

Don’t underestimate the power of culture.  If you want to create a diverse and inclusive organisation you cannot simply view D&I as a HR task or something people volunteer to be involved with on top of their day to day jobs.  You need to connect to your WHY for D&I and it has to become your companies DNA.

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