AIM Diversity Statement: From a Declaration to a Demonstration

Given recent global events and what we hope is the precipice of change in relation to the creation of a more just and equal society free from racism, we at AIM have felt the need to commit to being part of this critical process of change. We are all in agreement that tokenism and performativity is inappropriate as we are already a movement which is both diverse and inclusive. However, we have decided that our statement will offer a broader perspective on how we view issues around all forms of racism, including institutional racism and equality in Scotland.

Sam Ochola 

I’m native Kenyan and have lived in Scotland for fifteen years as a naturalized citizen having first arrived to study in Aberdeen. I have an Engineering background and worked over the years with International NGOs  interfacing  with  diverse cultures in three continents. I feature in a host of  advocacy forums  including a role as Community Councillor in Aberdeen.

Scotland by and large is progressive and tolerant nation. However there is overt and consequential racial discrimination against black people that cannot be wished away. It mainly rears its head in economic marginalization. It is not a coincidence that black citizens of Scotland, in spite of higher ratio in college education and qualifications, are acutely left out in decent employment, housing and other opportunities. The society without admitting   regards Africans in their midst  as    “Hewers of wood and drawers of water”.

To mitigate some of these shortcomings, black people must first be identified accurately as it is done with other ethnic groups during Census. The past Census has simply colour-coded Africans in a disparaged  racial hierarchy and identity pigeon hole. Informed statistics of   ethnic black population residing in Scotland will be crucial guide to public bodies and organizations in monitoring racial discrimination. It equally correlates to policy formulation, resource allocation and representation.  We must thus remain vigilant to statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010.    I have been fronting through the African Council  and AIM  networks for a radical shift to Scotland’s Census 2021 to redress the identity black-hole of Africans and Caribbean population.

Finally, it is my opinion that  the outcry for equality  and recognition of minority ethnic groups   are often convoluted and overridden with the rights of LGBT.  There is a day and night difference in these two grievances. The gradient remains  steeper in colour discrimination.  

The black population in Scotland is less than 3% and thinly across the Country. Accordingly we may not have the vote leverage that matters to politicians and policy makers. There is no political dividend for standing for black rights in Scotland. It is  a moral cause for our shared human values, equity and dignity.

Fatima Joji

I’m glad to be part of a movement that is committed to diversity and inclusion in Scotland. However, it is worth noting that we need to move on from a declaration to a demonstration, if we want to create a transformative and progressive Scottish society. 

I was born and raised in Aberdeenshire. I am Black and Scottish. There are many Black and minority ethnic Scots and this has to do in part with the reality of our Scottish history, our colonial past, our role in the transatlantic slave trade which, many are not aware of, including myself. This has led to a history of different races living and growing up in Scotland and contributing to Scottish society. We have a diverse nation to serve and we need to recognise and include the voices that makeup Scotland. With missing voices, policy solutions that aim to serve everyone will be ineffective. We will always struggle to create a transformative and progressive society if we don’t recognise and embrace diversity. This includes diversity of thought, diversity of experiences and diversity in terms of identity at the decision-making table. I try to recognise and demonstrate this in my everyday activism. Actions I take include passing the mic, not taking up space of other marginalised groups, and educating myself about issues and obstacles each marginalised group faces. I also work hard to be an ally whenever I find myself in a privileged position to do so in certain contexts. It is important we uphold diversity and promote inclusion within the independence movement and for Scotland. Racism does not belong in this country. Let’s rid our nation of racism once and for all.

Lauren Henderson 

As a white middle class woman I have long since acknowledged my position of privilege in societal and indeed global terms. Spending eleven years of my youth in Apartheid South Africa gave me a healthy dose of white guilt at a young age, due largely to parents who ensured they filled in the educational gaps in terms of the country’s oppressive history and how it came to be that the abhorrent system continued to exist. I have now reached the stage where I experience guilt for my white guilt, having recognised that internal reflection alone will do little to foster real change. There is little doubt that my chosen career in Social Work had much to do with my realisation that society is structurally unequal and that racist systems exist to oppress the majority in favour of the elite.

I have had the privilege of working with refugees and asylum seekers from a number of war torn countries, which has reinforced my view that all people should have the same basic rights. Naturally this view of people extends way beyond race and ethnicity and as such I would hope that I can stand in solidarity with individuals who are discriminated against and oppressed on the basis of class, gender, age, appearance and gender expression, to name but a few of the swathes of individuals and groups enslaved by current structures, perceptions and behaviours.

I wholeheartedly believe that any positive change is dependent on both personal willingness and systemic change. This constitutes willingness to educate oneself and others on our ingrained assumptions and fears and is arguably an essential step towards effecting systemic social change. In addition to personal change, systemic change means that all areas of institutional racism and discrimination should be challenged both personally and publically. Historical inequality and oppression must be acknowledged and dealt with, while inherent inequalities are identified, addressed and prevented for future generations. Racial justice may begin to be realised when people understand that racism has been used as a dividing mechanism by the corporate and ruling elite, by way of shrouding shared interests in challenging said elite. 

I am heartened by the Scottish psyche in the main, believing this to have been shaped by the influence of those who choose Scotland as home. My vision for an independent Scotland is that of a willing, respecting, inclusive and richly diverse nation which recognises the potential to evolve beyond economic prowess and stability and which has the upholding of basic human rights at its core. It is not sufficient to ‘tolerate’ or even to accept difference or diversity and this is a mindset which I hope can be left behind; to be replaced with a shift towards respecting the worldviews of all and recognising that we have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to utilise our individual and collective powers to undermine and challenge structural inequalities to achieve substantive change.

Sumon M Hoque 

As a Scottish Bangladeshi, I cannot be silent in this pivotal time in our history. In the 70s/80s, my father’s generation were constantly subject to violent racism from people in the UK. Bullying, beatings and LYNCHING – look at “paki bashing”. 

In the 90s, when growing up in school, I personally witnessed racism on a frequent basis and occasionally experienced it. As I continued my life through University & work, the type of racism I have witnessed is a lot more sophisticated and cannot easily be proven. 

Having been raised in an anti-racist family, where my father was the Chairman in Grampian Racial Equality Council. I followed his footsteps and joined the organisation as a volunteer & then a director.

I have fought against racism all my life, for my community & society. I can personally say that I know the racism faced by my black brothers & sisters is a lot more than myself. As a brown man, I am less likely to be profiled, less likely to be searched, less likely to be killed as opposed to my black counterpart. So I have no hesitation in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scotland is a fantastic small nation with diversity at its core. However, we cannot be complacent and need to address any type or form of racism. To be silent is complicit.