Is your chance of success affected by the colour of your skin? - Enoch Adeyem
Mike, a qualified accountant (CA) in Zambia had to relocate to the UK, Scotland to be specific. Once settled into his new life in Edinburgh, he takes a cleaning role at a restaurant to keep money coming in while he looks for an accounting role. Once he starts to search, this is what he experienced.
Week one, no luck with general feedback being around “no UK experience”. Month one, still no luck. Month six - same story. One year? Hint, hint, this is never going to happen Mike! While this is only one case, I do wonder if it would have been the case if Mike was White and from Australia.
Mike realises there is truly no hope of ever practising as an accountant and as the years go by, he settles into the new norm. I think this can be seen as a wasted opportunity for the Scottish economy, a case of unused talent.
This week marks one year since George Floyd was brutally and sadly murdered in Minnesota, America. For most of us living in Scotland that seems like something barbaric which happened across the pond and it does not reflect the lived experience of Black people in Scotland.
This may be true. Black people do not get brutally murdered on the streets of Scotland by the police, but of course there is the case of Sheku Bayoh who sadly died after being restrained by police in Kirkcaldy in 2015.
We all agree Scotland is relatively a friendly and welcoming country. Nonetheless, there is a stark difference between being Black in Scotland as opposed to any other race and this cuts across housing, education, and employment.
I am not using reams of statistics to back up my points, I would rather we be human and feel that sense of injustice that I believe Mike faced. This injustice and unfairness is faced by Black people across Scotland as we have to be more qualified than our White counterparts to get the same job. We have to work harder to get the same promotion as our White counterparts.
Here is an interesting contrast though. Scottish census data shows that the African ethnic group has the highest proportion of highly qualified people while the White ethnic group has the lowest. However, once we begin to make the transition from education into the workplace, we begin to experience human barriers to entry and progression.
What can you do? Be inquisitive. Do you see enough diversity at work? If not, be bold and ask why. Also, it’s okay to speak to people with lived experience to update your knowledge. They will appreciate it and you will be wiser for it. When you see racial injustice, call it out. Finally, expose younger ones around you to diversity including what you watch, where you visit and so on.
Scotland has the opportunity, which most countries miss, to really get this right and carry everyone along on the Scottish journey. History has taught us that marginalisation hurts the marginalised now but hurts us all in the future. I am hopeful for a Scotland where my kids’ chances of success will not be hampered by the colour of his skin.
Enoch Adeyemi, Founder and CEO, Black Professionals Scotland
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