As a woman of colour – a queer woman of colour – I continue to navigate white spaces; I continue to scan rooms and places for people like me. I’ve found that I’m not taken aback by the white faces staring back at me anymore; it’s become a normal part of my life. But when I do indeed see someone of colour, or someone queer, it puts me at ease. I know that that person will probably be on a similar level to me. They may have felt just like I’ve felt; they may have been excluded for the colour of their skin; they may be holding trauma of colonial/racial/homophobic history in them (the list goes on).
Recently, I spent a few days up north in Runswick Bay with my partner’s family. It meant that I was navigating that familiar, yet not-so-familiar and sometimes uncanny, territory. Being in predominantly white areas affects me to varying degrees depending on my mental health. And because I’ve been up and down lately, suffering from really low lows and bouts of anxiety, I became hyper-aware of the white space I was spending most of my time in.
One day during the quiz night, I found myself scanning the village hall, and I knew I was one of three PoCs – the other two being my partner and her sister. My anxiety caught up with me as I sat around the table with eight others, all too close for comfort. A hot room, with barely any space to move – and it didn’t help that it was all white space.
It also didn’t help that our team name, The Only Gays in the Village, was misread three times by a middle-aged white hetero man who refused to say “gays” and said “guys” instead.
But this feeling didn’t end when I left beautiful Runswick Bay.
A few months working in the charity sector, I realised just how white it is. Not only that, but people sitting at the top of big charities tend to be white, cis, able-bodied men. How can charities help underrepresented groups when the senior management team don’t even reflect society at large, let alone their beneficiaries?
Twitter campaign #CharitySoWhite shed light on the topic and invited people of colour in the sector to share their stories. Have a read and share yours. The more we talk about the lack of diversity in the sector, the louder our voices will become.