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11 June 2021

“It’s about intentions and attitudes, rather than getting the language right 100% of the time”

In his award-winning book, Black and British, David Olusoga speaks to the use of language over the centuries. Of his upbringing in the North East of England, he recalled: “It is difficult to regard a word as benign when it has been scrawled onto a note, wrapped around a brick and thrown through one’s living room window in the dead of night, as happened to my family when I was a boy of fourteen. That scribbled note reiterated the demand that me and my siblings be sent ‘back’.”

In this fascinating account, Olusoga covers the huge expanse of Black British history, including the role of King Charles II as founder of The Royal African Company. This institution was the largest trader and transporter of slaves from Africa at a time when the monarch’s interest in the sport was the impetus behind Newmarket’s evolution to the major racing centre it remains today.

The speakers at the recent BHA staff forum spoke passionately about how colleagues and organisations within and outside racing have the choice to be on the right side of history when addressing modern issues with deeply historic roots.

The zoom call scheduled just over a year on from the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis : Let’s talk about race and ethnicity focused on supporting and attracting ethnic diversity at every access point of racing. The panel of Callum Helliwell from Sky Sports Racing, Racing to School Board member and former Barbadian jockey Paul Brewster and the BHA’s Chief Executive Julie Harrington was hosted by BHA vet and podcaster Naomi Mellor.

The discussion highlighted the personal insights of all three speakers across and outside the industry and a first-hand account from Callum on some of the challenges faced by young people. The use and intent of language around ethnicity was of particular relevance, and the panel answered questions from a large number of staff that tuned into the call.  There was a clear consensus around Callum’s view that ‘it’s about intentions and attitudes, rather than getting the language right 100% of the time. People will forgive genuine misplaced words if the intent is good’.

Rose Grissell, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for the British Horseracing Authority, said: “It is felt that racing is typically welcoming to anyone interested in our sport, but there is more we can all do to understand and address any barriers to attracting the employees of tomorrow and supporting all of our current colleagues. 

“George Floyd’s tragic death has changed the conversation and understanding around racism and discrimination – leading to people from all over the world sharing how they are affected by these issues and racing is no different. As a leading organisation in the sport, we want to open up this conversation with our colleagues to build a greater level of understanding and awareness – the Webinar was a great start, thanks to the amazing panel of guests.”

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