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bp voices for action against racism

Release date:
21 March 2022
What’s code-switching and why should we be aware of it? These questions and more are tackled by bp colleagues in a new film to support the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
🕒 2.5 min watch| 🎥 Video

The film is introduced by Kerry Griffith, diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, whose job it is to help lead bp in developing an inclusive culture and raise awareness of the importance of speaking candidly about challenging topics such as race. 

We spoke to Kerry about what ‘end racism day’ means to him and why it's important to tackle some of the lesser-known topics like microaggression, equity, code-switching and allyship. 

Why is it important for bp to mark the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination?

We need to recognize that the world isn’t balanced for everyone. Employees are a part of society and, as such, large companies like bp can do a lot of good by taking strong visible positions and acting with integrity. 


How do you think bp is showing up? 

Two years ago, after the George Floyd murder – Bernard sent a note out to all staff acknowledging the anger employees were feeling and condemning racial injustice. To me, that was monumental, by doing that, he was saying: “I see you, the company sees you.” I had not witnessed anything like that before from a senior leader at bp. 


The events of 2020 were a wake-up call for all of us. We refocused and challenged how we approached racial injustice. bp launched its US and UK frameworks for action, which focus on equity for under-represented communities. Through this aim, bp is taking steps for positive change and holding itself accountable. 


The film talks about code switching. How would you describe it? 

Code-switching is when someone from a different ethnic background changes the way they speak or behave depending on who they are with. Usually, it’s to conform to a societal norm or to disassociate from a cultural stereotype. 


At bp, we are asked to bring our true selves to work, but to do that we need to recognize individual experiences and that microaggressions, code-switching, allyship and equity impact the inclusivity of an environment. 


It is draining having to prove yourself, or explain who you are, so code-switching makes life easier. It’s more of an affinity thing – I don’t need to explain myself with people who share my history and know what certain things mean. 


In the film, the phrase “I don’t see colour” is talked about. Why should people stop saying it? 

When someone says “I don’t see colour”, they aren’t necessarily meaning to be insensitive, or harmful to you, but it invalidates people’s experiences. The phrase is framed around the perceived ethnic norm – which is Western Caucasian and translates to “I don’t see you”. 


I know the person is trying to say we are the same, but the point is we’re not. That’s not a negative thing – we need to acknowledge and celebrate differences in culture and ethnic background. Some of the richest relationships and conversations I’ve had are when we take the time to really understand cultural backgrounds and validate each other’s lived experiences. 

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