Active Devon - black-lives-matter

A Personal Reflection on the Importance of Tackling Racial Inequality

Matt Evans, Active Devon’s CEO, openly shares his personal reflection on the issue of racial inequality.

My Personal Commitment 

Amidst all the challenges, uncertainty and ‘out of the ordinary’ that lockdown has imposed, one thing it has provided many of us is time for reflection.

For me, this time has been never more valuable than following the awful death of George Floyd, and the global and UK events that have followed.  

Personally reflecting on my own background, upbringing and values has been both hugely worthwhile but also challenging. In doing so honestly, I have confronted negative feelings of ignorance, inadequacy, guilt, frustration and anger to name a few. I have talked with three generations of my close family and reached out to trusted professional peers to talk and listen to them It has all helped me understand that there are wider systemic issues and how many of my own assumptions might be based on unconscious ignorance or blind spots.

Consequently, I have made a personal commitment. That is is to become more educated and informed about the background and cultural context to racial inequality in our country. This is an ongoing process, but I am slowly finding myself more confident that the views and opinions I have are better informed.  

Racial Inequality Is a Real Issue That We Can and Must Address

In a professional context I lead an organisation that works hard to tackle inequality in sport and physical activity. Inclusion is one of the core values that drives us.

However, like me, the rest of the team is white. Talking to colleagues has revealed that many of my personal reflections are mirrored by many. On an issue of such importance, it will never be possible to represent everyone’s views. Or the depth of conviction in which they hold them. But amongst the team there is a common belief that racial inequality is a real issue that we can and must address.

Many also share a feeling of not fully understanding the breadth of these issues, and uncertainty about what we can and should do to make a meaningful difference.  

It is not the easiest thing to do while circumstances dictate we are being kept physically apart, but we have been creating and encouraging opportunities throughout the team to explore these issues together, formally and informally. Only by doing so do we feel we can safeguard against ignorance driving our actions and assumptions.  

Premier League football’s return has provided a highprofile platform to highlight the Black Lives Matter Movement and the importance of the issue of racial inequality. Meanwhile, Sport England’s latest Active Lives Survey shows how big the issue is when it comes to participation in community sport and activity.

Black people are 10% less likely to be active compared to their white counterparts.

Fewer black people access the huge benefits that physical activity provides.

Racial inequality remains one of the stubborn inequalities that needs to be challenged.

I for one agree with Sport England’s CEO, Tim Hollingsworth, that sport has not done enough to properly tackle racism. 

What Next for Active Devon

Active Devon too is acknowledging that we have not achieved the impact on tackling race inequality that we want.

We know that this is as important in Devon as it is anywhere, and we are determined to educate ourselves and to listen so that we do not repeat past mistakes. Moreover, we want to turn our reflection and discussion into meaningful action that will make a positive contribution. Plus, we are determined to make this an ongoing commitment and not simply a tokenistic gesture.  

Within our broader work on equality and inclusion we will again be looking closely at what we do and what we can do better or differently to best play our part in tackling racial inequality.

We are also keen to learn and understand from others who can help us. If you have a perspective or experience that you think can help us then please get in touch. 

I genuinely hope these are meaningful first steps in a longer journey. It is the journey of an organisation that is not pretending that it fully understands the complexity of the issue or the challenges that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in our community regularly face in their lives.

Neither do we pretend to know the answers. But we are determined to make sure that where Active Devon can, we will contribute to a more positive future.