Every Tuesday we #PasstheMic to those with enriching perspectives to share their views and goals. Today, Andre Hitchman, a software engineer at Kin + Carta Create shares his lived experiences and learnings with us.
Pass the Mic
I am a proud. Young. Black-British man.
I did really well at school. I graduated from university with a degree in Computer Science. I now work as a software engineer, working on behalf of the world's biggest brands and companies.
Throughout my life that journey wasn’t without its struggles. Just like everyone else, but added to that is direct and indirect racial discrimination.
- Being stopped and questioned by police because I looked suspicious - I was trying to hire a bike.
- Being told at school that I am likely to end up in prison because of the colour of my skin - despite having good grades
- Being the only Black person in the room and not being taken seriously.
Race discrimination is real. It still exists deep within the fabric of everything we do. Often, indirectly and unnoticed. Too often we’ve turned a blind eye to it.
I admit myself, I’ve fallen into that bucket of turning a blind eye. I’ve learned to live with it and move on.
I went to school in London, I consider London a culturally diverse city. Given any day, you could hear a conversation in 10 different languages. Given any day, you could come across people from all different walks of life, cultural backgrounds, faiths and race.
The schools I went to during my primary and secondary education definitely reflected this.
I love the differences of the friends and people I met during that time. I learnt so much and I grew so much as a person because of it.
My family is Caribbean. I'm born to parents from Guyana and Jamaica, my parents moved to the UK when they were young. I love and cherish the culture they showed and taught me from these two countries. The music and the food, I'm proud to have such a vibrant heritage.
Every job and industry event I’ve ever had or attended, I never felt that I quite belonged there. I often looked around the room seeing my peers having lots of fun, cracking a joke or two, sharing their experiences and sharing who they are.
For me, I've always felt like I couldn't really bring my true self. I couldn't share who I really am. I was so afraid of rejection and judgment. It was just easier I kept my true self hidden.
Feeling like I belong has been and is a real struggle.
Everyone wants to belong to somewhere or someone. The workplace, for example shouldn’t just be a place where we attend, but a place that we belong to. Knowing and feeling that the workplace is a place where I can be my true self.
Changing the narrative:
If there’s one thing I’d like to tell everyone (often I tell myself this to help me learn and have fun with others):
I cherish you and your culture. I cherish you and your differences. I am not afraid to understand more about you and where you're from. I'm not afraid of the colour of your skin. I'm not afraid of listening to your story.
Don’t be afraid of mine and getting to know mine. Don’t be afraid to understand my background or heritage. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by the colour of my skin.
Actively listen, have empathy and acknowledge that you and I are different. But yet, we are still a human being with the same rights and privileges that you expect for yourself. We are individuals, but we are all unique and this is a powerful and wonderful thing.
If you say you don’t see colour. Change that narrative. Instead acknowledge colour, but cherish and celebrate that individual’s race.
Learn and understand:
We must be humble in learning about and understanding contemporary racism; and we must be determined in rooting it out.
We must carry out functions in a way that reflects real understanding of contemporary racism and of the impact on different diverse groups, and listen to and respond to the needs of these communities.
What is your response to race inequality? We talk about inclusion and equity, but our culture often lags behind. I can’t move forward without your help. We all play a part in improving race inclusion, equality and equity. Every single contribution counts, but you have to be proactive. Not passive. Nothing will change if you are passive.