LibLink: Floella Benjamin on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Floella Benjamin has written an article on Huffington Post titled: Let’s End Discrimination in All Its Forms

She writes:

I have been dealing with the issue of diversity all my life and professionally for over forty years. That started when I asked a television producer why we couldn’t have a more diverse portrayal of professional black characters, such as lawyers and accountants and he dismissively told me ‘that is not realistic’!

I knew it was blatantly not true because my family were all high professional achievers and I was surrounded by ambitious and successful people from minority groups.

I have never been afraid to challenge the status quo and have always had the moral courage to speak out for fairness and equality. Back in 1976 when I first appeared on the iconic children’s programme Playschool I asked, why couldn’t we have illustrations on the screen of black, Chinese and Asian faces of children represented in stories? The producer said ‘Oh we hadn’t noticed’. Thankfully she acted upon it and from that day on, children’s BBC programmes became the most diverse genre on television and a great example of how differences can be so brilliantly represented on screen and in turn, in society.

She says has been encouraged by the diversity motion that was passed at Spring Conference because “We need a political system which reflects the society it represents and serves.”

What the whole of society has to realise, especially the older generation, is that as we move towards an age in which diversity and equality in the workplace is looked upon as the norm, not as a problem there has to be real sustainable change. But I am optimistic because finally after many years of ineffectually tinkering round the edges companies and employers are now taking diversity very seriously and are making major steps to rectify a situation which in the past has frankly been shameful.

She adds many examples both of discriminatory behaviour and of good practice, ending optimistically:

Over the centuries Britain has always been a country which has assimilated different cultures. This has given it a unique quality which has created a rich cultural tapestry, the envy of the world. We must not hold back that evolution just because of skin colour or cultural and physical differences. But embrace these additions to the nation’s wealth. I long for the day when everyone is given an opportunity to continue the process of making Britain the great country we know and love.

You can read the full article here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Mar '16 - 1:00am

    Delighted that LDV are giving a wider viewing for this article by Floella Benjamin , who I often allude to here and elsewhere as not only a national treasure , for our party , a pearl of wisdom ! Whatever her particular stance on an issue of policy , it is her motivation that inspires. Here, on this issue ,of diversity, as in so many instances, she combines passionate caring with thoughtful consideration, and speaks with the substance of so much direct experience.

    I am , at almost a couple of decades younger than her , someone who has watched her and been both a fan and admirer for years , and ,as a professional in the arts and creative industries , who is a Liberal Democrat too, I see her as a role model of how to make a difference.

    As a man , and white , yes of Italian and Irish lineage , but not a woman , and not black , her gender and ethnicity are not only no barrier to my empathy with her life and career, they are an opening to greater kinship based on something more than skin deep. Humanity.It is at that level we must relate to one another. We need more representation from a diverse range of humanity , so that then we can truly fulfill the potential and live the promise of the words and work of Martin Luther King , and judge , or rather , value people , not by the colour of their skin , but by the content of their character.

    At any level , we must value our noble Baroness Benjamin.

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