Over 250 people from horseracing and associated industries engaged with the first ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ webinar on Wednesday 10th November, where Royal Ascot winning trainer Suzy Smith and cricketing legend Michael Holding called for more action on tackling race and racial equality within British racing.
Led by award-winning broadcaster Nick Luck, the panel was also joined by Shereen Daniels, an advocate for anti-racism in business and Managing Director of HR re-wired and Tony Langham, non-executive Chairman of Great British Racing and the British Champions Series and co-founder of leading reputation management and corporate communications firm, Lansons. The free 90-minute online event, organised by the Diversity in Racing Steering Group, focused on providing an educational insight and a collective conversation on racism and how racing can progress this area.
Michael highlighted the importance of more education on black history and the significant achievements made by black people within global history, and not just focussing on the white narrative. He also explained the meaning of ‘white privilege’: “White privilege means that white people do not have the problem of overcoming a dark skin. Because of the colour of my skin people form an immediate impression of me, I have experienced this, someone once came up to me at the Epsom Derby when I was standing by a lift, dressed in top hat and tails, asking for directions automatically thinking I was working there. However, it doesn’t mean white people don’t have challenges, all people do, but they don’t have to overcome the obstacle of having a dark skin before they even start their journey.”
The gap between horseracing’s actual behaviour and what is our perceived behaviour was challenged by Suzy Smith: “British racing has a diverse workforce, but people will not stay in the sport if our understanding of racism and behaviours around race are not improved. People of colour are particularly represented in our yards, but what message is it giving to them when as a sport we have not addressed anything since the murder of George Floyd. Forget about bringing people into horseracing, I worry that our silence has affected the people we already have.”
Reputation expert Tony Langham added: “The reputation business is about correct behaviour, it’s not about looking good it’s about being authentic and real. To have a great reputation, organisations must meet the expectations of society, and these are to try and save the planet and running inclusive and diverse workplaces. There clearly should be representation at board level of people of colour and currently horseracing is lacking here. We all need to take action in racing to achieve this.”
Shereen Daniels spoke on progressing racial diversity on a corporate level: “The first thing is to start with is the board and ensuring it’s diverse and that its culture can bring about change and it can filter down through a business. When it comes to board representation, I don’t want to see black faces in white spaces, I want to know they have got budget responsibilities, they have a P&L to look after and can make decisions because of their capabilities.”
She concluded that understanding each other and our experiences was a crucial first step for all of us. “None of us like to be made to feel like “other” and we all have a role in making everyone feel included.”
Following the webinar, Nick Luck said: “It was a pleasure to host an excellent panel to discuss such an important subject. Combined with strong engagement from the audience, I hope it demonstrated the power and benefit of opening-up and talking about the issue of race. We have an opportunity to progress the situation in British racing and we should all embrace this.”
Susannah Gill, Chair of the Diversity in Racing Steering Group, added: “I would like to say a huge thank you to Michael, Shereen, Suzy, Tony and Nick for sharing their views so openly, and leading such a positive and informed debate about race. There is much we can all do if we come together to better understand each other and the world around us. Another thankyou to Rose Grissell, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, and Diversity in Racing Steering Group members Harriet Rochester and Rishi Persad, for their help in organising and promoting this webinar, along with the Racing Foundation for continuing to financially support our work.”
The Diversity in Racing Steering Group will be launching a Diversity and Inclusion e-learning module on the BHA’s Racing2Learn platform at the end of the year. This joins the LGBT+ module and will provide a valuable opportunity for anyone in racing to learn more on key issues related to Diversity and Inclusion.