Do we need anti-racism in the Scottish care sector? Short answer, yes.
Long answer: Also, yes. There is no society or country that is immune to the long-lasting effect of historical anti-blackness and racism, and no society in which racism is not currently reproduced in one way or another. Only by bringing the intersection of race and care experience into our consciousness can we truly achieve the best for all children and young people in care.
Intersectionality is one of those words that is often used but if people are asked to define it, they will hesitate. Here is what it does not mean: Intersectionality does not describe when a person falls into more than one category or group. If that were true, every person could then be described as intersectional. Any one person is not intersectional, and neither can a group of people be intersectional if there are diverse members to a group. This is simply a diverse group.
Why does the distinction matter? Because actually, intersectionality is a useful word and a powerful concept.
Intersectionality is a tool of analysis. As the professor who coined the term Kimberlé Crenshaw states: “It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.“
For example, all care experienced people benefit from legislation to protect their rights. But transgender young people in care will need more than that. There are laws that protect transgender young people, but those that are in care face particular issues around parental consent and rights to privacy. So, a transgender young person is neither fully covered by policy for care experience, and neither by policy for transgender young people. Through the lens of intersectionality, we are able to perceive and correct those shortcomings.
Intersectionality can answer questions like: How does care experience interact with being from an ethnic minority? Does being in care exacerbate the discrimination faced by young Black people?
It is difficult to answer that question for Scotland, because there is very little data and information.
In 2019 Staf reached out to over 40 organisations to find out more about the experience of care for different ethnic groups. While it was fairly straightforward to find information on Unaccompanied Asylum seekers, it was difficult to find information on Scottish young people who are of ethnic minorities. Tellingly, many organisations were surprised by the questions and had not considered the issue before.
However, speaking to young people with that experience, it is clear that they often experience discrimination, for example in the form of negative comments and insulting remarks.
So, the lack of visibility of Black, Asian and minority ethnic care experience people does not mean that their experience does not warrant special consideration. Rather, we should ask ourselves why there is little representation in participation group and why their voice if not heard.
Intercultural Youth Scotland published a report last year that highlighted the frequent discrimination that Black, Asian and minority ethnic students face in Scottish schools. Even when these incidents get reported, the severity is often dismissed, and no further action is taken. There was little confidence in the school’s and the teachers’ knowledge of racism and the procedures to follow after a report. Responses were highly correlated to whether a pupil was female or male.
“ I got no compassion, the teacher just said, ‘What do you want me to do about it?’” Quoted from In Sight, IYS, p.25
While the report is about schools in general, it is not hard to imagine from it that people with care experience in Scotland who are Black, Asian or an ethnic minority likely face similar problems.
Throughout this Guide we have chosen to write out the words ‘Black, Asian and ethnic minorities’. This is deliberate. There is no such thing as the BAME community, as the term encompasses a huge number of different groups. While the acronym is helpful in some contexts, it serves no one to conflate the experiences of all ethnic minorities. Taking a person-centred approach, as we do with all young people, is important. It is also important to highlight the difference between cultural prejudice, islamophobia, anti-Blackness and racism. A person can be subject to all 4 things, but they operate differently. Naming the discrimination that someone experiences is hugely important to validate the reality of young people in care. Workers should not be afraid to address the issues and should speak up for young people.
The care sector does not need diversity and equality training. It needs education in social justice, intersectionality, and anti-racism. There is a Scottish collective of educators that have compiled resources about Anti-racism, you might find their glossary helpful.
It is the responsibility of each one of us to seek to educate ourselves and to elevate the voices of marginalised groups to improve care for all young people.
Do you work with young people of ethnic minorities? A starting point in improving your practice is speaking with them to understand how your practice can be improved.