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Diverse Ethics - Atul Shah - Wisdom Blog

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In the United Kingdom, the word used to describe and classify people from different cultural backgrounds is Black and Minority Ethnic - BAME. There are references to colour and to 'minority' status in this description, words which really diminish the personality and its representation. There are also other words like 'hard to reach' often used in these contexts - BAME communities are seen as hard to reach.

There was an outstanding conference I attended yesterday at Kings College London whose aim was to empower ethnic professionals working in Higher Education. One of the keynote speakers, Professor Gus John, said he does not like the word BAME and instead chose to use the word Global Majority to describe us. Many people resonated with this classification, and found it empowering and much more positive. It is true that if we look at world population, Asian and African populations or even Latin American numbers are much higher than that of Anglo-Saxons. Also the word Global has the connotation of people with a global mindset, who think more broadly and openly and are culturally literate and engaged. This is a very important quality for modern leadership and progress - we all need to have an open mind and with closed or narrow minds, we will not be able to adapt to change or different people easily.

One of the other important points that was made was that leaders need to engage with us as equals and not as minorities. In fact, Prof. John said that it is a critical institutional imperative for the Global Majority to be consulted in major policy and strategic decisions. In this way, organisations like Universities which have global reputations, yet very few non-white leaders or opinion-makers, would be able to be truly global in their thinking, strategies and behaviours. They would be able to access the cultural nuances and huge creative possibilities that come from living in a multi-cultural society. Very few Universities in the UK have such level of equal engagement with Global Majority staff. In fact, we can extend this to most corporates and government bodies - their behaviour often makes them 'hard to reach'.

Article added on 1st February 2012 at 10:23am