An opportunity to make Tees region a fairer place

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Yasmin Khan, founder/director of Teesside charity, Halo Project, and an advisor to the Welsh government, calls on Tees businesses to help make our region a fairer, safer place, free from discrimination.

How can we build a nation based on equality when our minds discriminate colour?

The killing of George Floyd caused understandable outrage across the globe as we witnessed the worst kind of police brutality I had ever seen. It seemed to me his life did not matter to the killer and to those bystanders who remained silent.

Could this be the turning point in our history where we finally take the issue of discrimination seriously? Where we finally look within ourselves, our institutions and the society we live in? Or will we simply carry on disputing the #BlackLivesMatter slogan?

Future generations will question the society we have created and the legacy they have been granted. The choices we make today will determine the equality compass tomorrow. If we are to achieve fundamental equality in the Tees Valley, we must tackle inequalities based on wealth, opportunity, gender and everything else but in context of the horrific killing of George Floyd, we must focus on the lives of black people.

Of course, all lives matter, but black lives are not like those of the white population – they are viewed negatively, disproportionately targeted and disadvantaged in comparison to their white counterparts.

It’s our duty to create change that lasts, to ensure our Tees Valley will not stand by or be part of the systemic failures we have witnessed over time.

The private sector is the catalyst for change, this is where innovation is created, difference is fundamental to success and where, increasingly, black and minority ethnic (BME) businesses play a key role in achieving the ambition for our region for economic growth and social prosperity.

The economy has experienced a significant shock since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as the negative impacts of social distancing and lockdown have led to a significant fall in consumer demand and business and factory closures, as well as supply chain disruptions.

The pandemic has required Tees Valley businesses to become more creative, innovative and reactive and opened up new markets. We must consider how the business sector can reconfigure, enable and improve opportunities and create stronger links with BME employees, apprentices and businesses.

Let’s start with Tees Business providing exposure in this magazine, but let’s also engage with business groups, mentors and others to ensure that those who are under-represented are given every opportunity to turn their ideas and aspirations into successful businesses.

Creating a successful business requires ambition, skills, talent and much more.

Ethnic minority businesses are already highly successful and contribute £25bn to the economy.

It is incumbent on us to do so because racial discrimination is not negotiable, nor is any other form of discrimination.

Tees Valley businesses and business leaders, I call upon you and all your affiliates to join me in creating the society we want to work and live in.

One in which we can all prosper – an inclusive environment, free from harm, where discrimination is not accepted.

We are the change we want to be. We are Tees Valley.