A picture I shared on Wikimedia has been given by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a gift to President Joe Biden.
Just goes to show that serendipitous things happen when you share openly.
President Biden and Dr Biden are visiting the UK this week. In preparation for the visit the Downing Street offices began searching for a thoughtful gift. They know that the Bidens have an interest in history and in the life of Frederick Douglass. They found my picture of a mural of Douglass on Wikimedia and contacted me.
I gave them a high-res version and the Prime Minister’s Office got it printed up and framed.
When I saw the mural I recognized the subject immediately. The artist is talented and the image is striking.
Frederick Douglass was one of the most photographed people of his time, many people were interested in him and he was keen to ensure that he was represented as an equal during such a difficult time in American history. During the 1800s he sat for more portraits than even Abraham Lincoln.
Frederick Douglass is part of the cultural history not just of the US, but also of Scotland. He came to Edinburgh several times, first in 1846 . He made a number of public anti-slavery speeches and wrote letters back to the USA from here. He considered the city to be elegant and grand and found the UK to be very welcoming. ‘Everything is so different here from what I have been accustomed to in the United States. No insults to encounter – no prejudice to encounter, but all is smooth. I am treated as a man an equal brother. My color instead of being a barrier to social equality –is not thought of as such’.
I was born in Scotland but I am a dual national by virtue of having an American parent. My US family are in Maryland and I am delighted to see this image of such an important American icon here in our public spaces. The fact that I am a dual national seems to be an added bonus for the gift to President and Dr Biden.
I took the photograph on an evening walk during lockdown just as the sun was setting. The mural is very close to the building where Frederick Douglass stayed while he was in Edinburgh. I shared it on Wikipedia so that more people could see it and enjoy it.
Some people on Twitter are being a bit rude about the traffic cone but I would remind you that both Edinburgh and Glasgow have a fine tradition of adding traffic cones to significant public art works and perhaps David Hume wasn’t using his.
Racial and ethnic diversity is a challenge for the Scottish HE IT sector. In Scotland in 2017 95.6 percent of the population identified as white. The next highest ethnic group was Asians with 2.6 percent.
‘Getting race equality right in the UK is worth £24bn per year to the UK economy -1.3%of GDP. Employers with more diverse teams also have 35% better financial results.There are persistent unemployment rate gaps, with some ethnic minority groups experiencing employment rates which are twice as high as their white counterparts. In 2016/1only 1.7%of Modern Apprentices in Scotland identified as BME’
In ISG we take an intersectional approach to addressing the multiple factors, gender, race, religion, class, sexuality, and disabilities which shape the experience of our staff. Ethnicity is also a complex category. I had to google ‘do Jews count as minority ethnic?’ and there’s a whole discipline around collecting data.
Here are some of the things we have done:
We have employed an intern (Dominique ) who is an expert in gender and race issues and how those combine to reinforce inequality. She has advised us on how to ensure that our gender equality initiatives also include race, age and class considerations.
In our recruitment, we have changed the language and images we use to communicate what it is like to work in ISG. We have also changed where we advertise, making more use of LinkedIn and the new Equate Scotland jobs board and the university careers service. As a result our new workers, and particularly our student interns appear to be a much more diverse group than the longer standing staff. Our interns are a pipeline to bringing new diversity into digital jobs.
We make sure that the images we use in BITs magazine and in other ISG promotional materials reflect the diversity of our staff and discourage the use of ‘stock’ images to do so. We have also changed the images we use to promote use of technology and online learning, ensuring that the images on our websites reflect the demographics we know we have in our community. We are exploring how we can make more use of positive action images collections such as JopWell
‘It is generally accepted that for public services to be effective and relevant for all communities in Scotland, the public sector workforce should reflect the community it serves. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that by 2025 its own workforce will reflect at every level the minority ethnic share of the population. According to the 2017 staff diversity data published in the Scottish Government’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, BME staff currently comprise 1.6 % of the civil service in Scotland, an increase of 0.2 % since 2013.
The position set out in the CRER report of March 2014 is that just 0.8% of staff in all Scotland’s Local Authorities are from BME backgrounds despite making up 4% of the general population in Scotland. In Glasgow City Council the proportion of the workforce from a BME background is less than 2% although the BME population is 12%.
Given that the Public Sector employs 20.7% of the workforce in Scotland, accelerating action to tackle the diversity deficit in the Scottish Public Sector and meet the Scottish Government’s equality outcomes is, I suggest, a matter of some urgency.’
People of colour make up 9.7 per cent of the total staff numbers at University of Edinburgh and suffer structural disadvantage in pay as we can see by looking at the gender pay gap.
BME staff are more likely to report a culture of bullying, racial stereotyping and microaggression (Advance HE/Fook et al, 2019; Rollock 2019). We have held staff development sessions on:
We take care not to organise all-staff events on major high days and holidays
Staff, mainly in User Services Directorate, attend cultural awareness training
We take part in projects across libraries and collections and across the sector to explore the implications of decolonialising our metadata and descriptions
We are meeting with Advance HE to explore how University of Edinburgh can be part of their race equality project:
‘Racial inequality is a significant issue in UK universities. It is evidenced by the BME attainment gap, the BME staff pay gap, and the lack of representation and promotion of BME staff . A number of UK universities have made strategic and public commitments to advancing race equality, but the sector has found consistent progress hard to come by.
Advance HE/ECU has been actively working with the sector in Scotland on race equality since 2013 to promote conversations and initiatives on race equality with universities and colleges. In 2016, the Race Equality Charter was launched, and the Scottish Race Equality Network (SREN) first met. This project aims to support a group of Scottish universities to make significant and meaningful progress in developing strategic approaches to race equality, and in particular develop effective initiatives to support the recruitment and development of Black/BME staff. Improved staff representation, whilst being a key longer term outcome itself, is also a necessary condition for significant improvement in the Black/BME attainment gap.’
There seem to be some Scotland-specific challenge, Advance HE report that:
Scottish manifestations of race inequality in HE are under-explored. Intersectionality and differences between BME ethnicities are underexplored in the national sector literature, and may be different, and/or particularly relevant to the Scottish context. Positive action is under-utilised to drive strategic and institutional change, partly due to institutional conservatism, lack of expertise and lack of leadership.