Isabella Naiduki, Fijian in the UK shares her thoughts on diversity and why it matters as this month’s guest blogger.
I grew up with a lot of privilege, I had a two parent family, I attended a semi-private school, never knew what it was like to go without a meal or any other basic life essentials in any given day of my life. I also never experienced any prejudice in terms of opportunities that I was accorded as a child and a young adult growing up in Fiji. These rose-tinted life experiences made me somewhat oblivious when I moved over here to the UK, to the lack of diversity there is here in the UK in the British blogosphere.
It wasn’t until I started joining blogging and networking forums that I realised I would either be the only person of colour or if I had to be at an event where there was someone else who looked like me then it had to be an event that was organised specifically for that. It’s begun to irk me in ways that makes my left eye twitch uncontrollably. One such event I attended where I felt like I was on the movie set of Get Out was during the York Fashion Week. Bearing in mind that York is home to two universities whose students (I felt could have been asked to be involved) in their respective school of Fashion & Design and Communication are made up of multicultural ethnicities; it is also a city with a diverse cultural local population that sees thousands of international tourist visitors annually and yet all the events for the week were aimed specifically at a white, British audience. There are a number of non-white bloggers who are on the York bloggers scene and yet, not one of us was invited or asked to be involved in any of the events. I only happened to attend the events as I am part of the York Women In Business network, but even then I came away from the events feeling like my attendance was merely an exercise of tokenism to allow the network to tick boxes.
The challenge I face now is how do I change this narrative? How do I start the conversation of inclusivity in forums and networks that I am a member of and not feel like I have to tiptoe around the subject out of fear of offending people… considering, on the flipside no one seems to think to tiptoe around us when the apparent lack of diversity is overlooked? How do I make the small changes that in turn become a butterfly effect that stir up much needed dialogue to include each and every voice that deserves to be represented in British society? In my own way I have begun to question people in positions of leadership, when I feel we are not being represented or if we are, that it be from our perspective and not what is assumed should be. I’ve also taken on the opportunity you could say, to change the narrative about what life as a woman of colour in the army community and also living in the UK is, rather than allow it to be dictated by the somewhat negatively portrayed army wife blogs that are out there in the blogosphere. It’s also made me realise that there needs to be a diversity in the way we think i.e. in terms of breaking out of the barriers imposed by our colonial educators to include those of us who are from former colonised States to be allowed to communicate, to develop and also make our own spaces for conversations on our terms.
So in saying all that, I’ll bring you back to the title of this piece, “Diversity and Why It Matters” – for me as a blogger it matters as it allows me to introduce this conversation on my platform where I challenge the status quo about diversity or the lack thereof, not just because it is the hip thing to do but because the conversation is important. It also creates awareness on educating ourselves and each other on diversity across every section of society, be it gender, race, profession, development & communication and realising that is how we begin the much needed conversations on diversity and why it should matter for all of us.