Why The "Kobe Error" Shows Why You Need To Invest In Inclusion

This was not going to be my first blog of 2020 but honestly, I needed to share what I was feeling and thinking about a recent incident.

Many of you should be aware of the untimely death of Kobe Bryant, an LA Lakers legend, who had died along with his daughter and seven of his friends on 26th January 2020.

This was an incredible shock and a deep loss to not just the basketball community but the world and the black community who he had inspired so much with his many accomplishments and emphasis on the importance of work ethic and persistence in your passion. Before I continue, whether the families ever read this or not, I do want to express my deepest condolences to all those effected by such an imaginable loss.

As news was breaking all over the world, it eventually became breaking news on the BBC. Now their announcement was quite different from the rest and got a lot more attention than most but this was not for the right reasons. Want to know why? Well, as they began sharing an obituary of Kobe Bryant, they shared a video of a completely different black basketball player, Lebron James.

Basketball players, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James
Credit: USA Today

This caused outrage as it should by many people all over the world, including myself. These two great black men are some of the most recognisable names and faces in the sporting world. They have made history within basketball, inspired many all over the world, participated in global campaigns for large brands, featured in video games sold all over the world yet the BBC couldn’t tell the difference between them.

What does this demonstrate? Well, I can share what I felt it shared for me. It definitely indicated to me the lack of black representation within the BBC and, more importantly, the lack of black representation in decision-making roles. that was more likely to prevent this case of misidentity of happening in the first place.

When working on creating an inclusive environment, we have to get to a stage where we are open to not just asking for education on blackness but receiving the education and applying the knowledge in order to take action in creating. In my own personal journey of sharing why I believe black representation is important, I have had “blacklash” from people, who are normally not black, confidently sharing that black representation and appreciation in the workplace is not important.

Majority of the time, I feel they are choosing not to accept the challenges it brings, understand the feeling of being a minority or just from a position of ignorance where they are choosing to speak from a place of their own privilege where they are always the majority. I have to ask, as a black person, would this had happened if this was with high profile white figures? Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t but it is unlikely in my opinion.

Black women conducting a professional business meeting
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened with black people. Recently, Marsha de Cordova MP was described as Dawn Butler MP during a live broadcast as she gave a speech in the House of Commons on BBC Parliament. How are two black women who represent an incredible few black women in Parliament be mistaken for one another? How can it be so difficult to be able to differentiate between the handful of black women MPs in Parliament?

What’s the saying? The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? If there is not enough black people in your organisation, admit it. If you are unsure of the amount of black people working in your company, say it. How can we work to help you fix the issue if you are choosing not to talk about the issue? You need to be willing to get uncomfortable and have those conversations that will challenge what your ways of thinking even saying describing someone as “black”.

After confessions and conversation, we have to take action. What’s the point in talking about something if you don’t plan on implementing a strategy to make it happen? I’ve had a lot of conversations. A lot. Whether it be within or outside of where I work. I also have had many other people of color express they have had conversations. The common reasons why they stop talking about diversity and inclusion within the workplace is because once they’ve had the conversation, there is rarely any action afterwards or even a willing to invest to bring their conversation further than just a chat. When they decide to no longer talk about it, can you be surprised after the last time?

Be a ground-breaker in changing this. What is so wrong in creating a program for black people to learn how to code? Why not offer a program providing coding for those from underrepresented groups in tech? Why not contact organisations like UKBlackTech, POCInTech or The BYP Network and ask for their guidance or advice on how to change the imbalance within your organisation. We’ve broken barriers in changing the narrative towards gender and sexuality in the workplace, race doesn’t have to be the Strawberry Delight in a box of Quality Street chocolates. It can’t be ignored or put on the back burner forever!

This incident with the mistaken identities of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James as well as Marsha de Cordova MP and Dawn Butler MP indicates the lack of black voices being given positions where their voice can have a positive impact on a delivery of a message or product. There are benefits in investing in the allowance of black people, and people of colour in general, the access to contribute to important projects that add value to an organisation.

Downward view of people having a business meeting
Photo by fauxels on Pexels

Now, before your fingers start moving mad, I’m not saying give every black person an all-access pass to a job role they are not qualified for but have something in place where a black person gets a equal chance at a job or even gets access to learn something new or change their career direction.

There is so much power in representation in every area of diversity, don’t get me wrong. I’m not discounting any other branches of diversity as less important at all but I do believe that black representation is not talked about enough and not enough work is being done to change it.

Large corporations really have the power to change narratives. If you don’t make yourself uncomfortable to do so, how can we educate others who see things like this from a narrow point of view?

All these opinions are my own by the way. I’m not speaking for people of colour because some may not agree with my thoughts & that’s OK. We can all discuss, learn & take action to make a difference together.

Be blessed!


Jennifer Opal

February 6, 2020

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