You have to understand intersectionality to break the vicious circle of disadvantage

This is the first in a series of articles commissioned by the Diversity Sub Committee of the FPDC (Federal People Development Committee) and a group of Party campaigns and SAOs on intersectionality – examining how different layers of diversity, discrimination or disadvantage combine. Ray Lewis is our first contributor. He joined the Party earlier this year and runs the Eastside Academy in London.

Disadvantage ruins lives. I live and work in East London, running a Leadership academy for young people from local disadvantaged communities. I have seen for myself the difference that can be made when we can break the vicious circle that condemns so many of our young people.

But there are differences in the disadvantage that people face. When I first set up the Eastside Academy, the primary concern among politicians and educators was for young black boys from poor areas. There was a feeling that they were being left behind and being born into a future of exclusion. 

Then society’s focus shifted onto the wider BAME agenda, which included an acknowledgement of the hardships that so many young girls are faced with. From specific issues like FGM and breast ironing through to the daily challenges of just being female – lower wages, lower prospects and harassment.

Now society is recognising the many layers of intersectionality. In particular we are starting to have the challenging conversations around the meeting point of religious belief and the importance of acceptance of people who identify as LGBT+. Some BAME communities struggle to reconcile their devout faith with acceptance of their LGBT+ friends and relatives. These individuals have the struggles that all BAME people face, of racism and discrimination. And then they also have the struggle for acceptance of their sexuality or gender identity. This is intersectionality.

For me, personally, we need to embrace this diversity. LGBT+ people need acceptance of who they are every bit as much as the Jamaican boy who has been excluded from school, or the Kenyan girl who worries about whether she will be able to get a job. When more than one diversity characteristic is present, and an individual is from a BAME community and identifies as LGBT+ then we must recognise the impact of intersectionality. Their struggle to live a happy, open, fulfilling life as their authentic selves starts with our acceptance of their identity.

This does mean difficult conversations. At Eastside we are ‘all inclusive’ in our approach. We exist to combat disadvantage and champion young people from disadvantaged communities. Leadership skills and learning ability are based in self-knowledge and self-worth. That has to start with our acceptance of their identity. Some parents and Academy partners have taken issue with this approach from time to time. We have been careful to be open to discussion, as we believe that conflict above the surface is less toxic than when it is suppressed. But our core value will remain the same.

Disadvantage in all its forms makes talented people lower their goals and ambitions. Through acceptance and true celebration of diversity, we can start to break that cycle.

* Ray Lewis joined the Liberal Democrats earlier this year and runs the Eastside Academy in London

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  • Miranda Roberts 15th Apr '19 - 5:50pm

    Hi @David, I’m the Chair of FPDC. This is the start in a series of articles and isn’t “evidence” it’s an article giving a point of view. Ray joined the Party earlier this year and the point of this series is for us to stop seeing diversity in terms of single characteristics. BAME people can talk about more than just ethnic diversity, Disabled people can talk about issues of race, LGBT+ people can talk about age discrimination and so on and so on. Too often in the party we say “ah, this person is transgender, so I will listen to them on trans issues” without considering that within the trans community are BAME people, disabled people, young people and many more degrees of intersectionality. The same is true of all diversity characteristics, nothing is simple and silo’ed off, but we often see diversity as being one-note, rather than a melody. Similarly within our Party membership there are members who joined many moons ago, like me, and some who joined in the last week. Some who have never been involved in politics before and others who switch from other parties. We chose Ray to author our first piece because his experience running Eastside gives him a really interesting point of view to kick off this discussion. If you disagree, that is your prerogative but I’ve had very warm feedback from others. Perhaps you will enjoy the future articles more if this one was not to your personal taste. Best wishes.

  • Ray’s comments shouldn’t even need saying within this party, but he’s absolutely right to make them: in the recent past there have been party members who have argued that issues of misogeny and homophobia within minority communities are an unwelcome distraction and should not be raised.

    “Some parents and Academy partners have taken issue with this approach from time to time. We have been careful to be open to discussion, as we believe that conflict above the surface is less toxic than when it is suppressed. But our core value will remain the same.”

    At a time when there is an increasing readiness to suppress rather than to engage with dissident viewpoints, including within the party, this is another essential point. You cannot persuade unless you are prepared to listen, to try to understand the other person’s viewpoint and to respond to their arguments.

    We should always seek to convert, rather than condemn; and we should also always be open to the possibility that a person who differs from you on a key issue may just have a valid point.

  • Roderick Lynch 18th Apr '19 - 10:52am


    Ray Lewis joined the party after being canvased by myself. He was asked and after three further meetings he joined.

    I was not interested in what he did, or his position while working within another political party.

    On the doorstep you hear the term used by canvassing teams “Soft Tory, Hard Labour, UKIP” don’t bother etc.

    There are plenty of people who may have voted for other political parties in the past, however, they do have liberal values. Once you get in to a meaningful conversation people do tend to agree with you.

    Ray being a prominent figure in the Leadership, Youth, Education & Gun & knife crime arena alerted me to the fact it would be of value to have him inside the tent. LDCRE was happy to have his expertise within our midst.

    Being a. Chief Exec of a ground breaking leadership & education project that has produce remarkable results across the United Kingdom it’s to his credit that the
    Federal People Development committee
    would seek his input in to the campaign as mentioned by Miranda Roberts.

    You would have seen over the last few months Ray has been involved in solutions around the Gun & Knife crime epidemic sweeping the UK.

    The Metropolitan Commissioner recently dropped in to see Ray at the
    Eastside Leadership Academy and sought his thoughts and advice on solutions to the issue as described above.

    I will continue to canvass and sign up members from all walks of life who identify with Liberal Values.

    The party need to look like the people we wish to represent. Get out there and canvass like I am doing.

    BAME people will flock to our party once you talk to them

    Join LDCRE and help us to diversify this party that we all love.

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