No words

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The IFoA values equality and diversity in all that we do and condemns any kind of racism. Find out more about how we seek to do this on our diversity pages.

In this piece, Chika Aghadiuno, Chair of the IFoA’s Diversity Advisory Group reflects upon the Black Lives Matter movement which has shaken societies around the world and propelled issues around discrimination to the forefront of our global conversation.

I write to you today as chair of the IFoA Diversity Advisory Group and as an African/British mother of three experiencing life and work as part of the particular minority group that is the ‘Black community’.  The following words are adapted from a message I wrote to my work colleagues but apply equally to my fellow actuaries. 

Shocked but not surprised, I have no words for the images and incidents that I cannot now un-see, the latent racist rage I may sense but never actually see. 

I want to take this opportunity to speak to my fellow professionals who do not identify as part of the Black community. We often talk in vague and couched terms about some of the most challenging issues relating to discrimination. Intent is declared, values proudly displayed, and we dip in to and out of the difficult issues, often focussing on the easier ones and proclaiming the small victories achieved on the way - understandably so. I think we all know that more is needed. Now is the time for a shift. 

This is bigger than any one of us, bigger than our respective organisations, but can be conquered with a sustained and collective endeavour. If we are to stand a chance, there must be recognition that racism does not lie elsewhere but is endemic. Should we need it, a white professional female walking her dog in New York’s Central Park provided us with a most powerful reminder of this, on the very same day that a more horrific act was committed.

I feel your anger and I have been touched by so many of you who have reached out. 

What can you do? Be purposefully outraged. Acknowledge not just this latest raft of outrages but the generations of behaviours and atrocities that have led to this. Self-reflect and seek knowledge to support your understanding. But most importantly, do something. Today. Now. This does not have to be headline-grabbing gestures. Small acts in your world can be hugely impactful. Conversations with your children, calling out an unacceptable comment, actively looking for bias and racism rather than assuming it is not there, holding yourself and others to account. We need different and difficult conversations and actions that will take years before they can reasonably yield fruits. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

To my fellow black professionals, I understand the spectrum and roller coaster of emotions you are feeling. I understand the seemingly duplicitous lives many of us are experiencing as we attempt to go about our professional duties and deliver business as usual in spite of the internal turmoil. I urge you to seek the comfort and support you undoubtedly need right now. I hope your organisations are playing a part in this as well as your personal networks. I invite you to reach out to myself and the Diversity Advisory Group if you would like to talk more. Let us hope and believe, and perhaps agitate for the change that must now come.

I will end where I started – I have no words because there are no words for how I currently feel. Let us not forget this moment and this feeling. But let us act.

Chika Aghadiuno

IFoA Diversity Advisory Group, Chair

Contact diversity@actuaries.org.uk to contribute your perspective and to help the Diversity Advisory Group alongside the IFoA take active steps to achieve progress.

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