This may seem like a good result for Olivea Ebanks – but is it? Does the money really compensate for 20 years of racist abuse in the Ministry of Justice – of all places! – that she says broke down her body and mind?
And how is the government acting to end the racism that, it seems clear, is rife in all the corridors of power? Have the Tories lifted a finger to improve matters?
Let’s see what Ms Ebanks had to put up with…
She was called racially insulting names by a manager, prevented from progressing her career, and had her out-of-work activities monitored.
Ms Ebanks said working in an “abusive” environment led to her physical and mental health suffering.
“The first time I went to court, I lost my good mental health… The second time I decided to go to court, I lost my marriage and the third time, I lost my job.”
Ms Ebanks alleges managers blocked access to career-enhancing opportunities and training open to colleagues.
She says her work was unfairly scrutinised and managers began to “constantly” pick at her work, and claims her concerns about this were routinely dismissed.
One day after asking her manager why she was being treated differently to other members of the team during a meeting, she was shocked when the reply was: “Are you accusing me of racism?”
An internal probe, which pointed towards institutional racism within the MOJ, was triggered soon after.
She decided to write a book about her experiences – she says with her managers’ blessing. But Ms Ebanks found herself the centre of investigation and suspended from work for “bringing the organisation into disrepute”.
The former civil servant claims she was called racially offensive names by senior staff and was subject to privacy breaches, alleging her out-of-work activities following global Black Lives Matter protests was monitored.
Ms Ebanks says she complained about the incidents numerous times but claims she was ignored.
She resigned in June 2020 after the “situation became intolerable” and then began her third case against the ministry which was settled last year.
Ms Ebanks says she applied for upward of 40 promotions without any success and experienced a manager refusing to provide essential backing for a senior role because she “couldn’t see” Ms Ebanks thriving in such a position.
Reflecting on her ordeal Ms Ebanks described it as “exhausting” and said she suffered loss of appetite, insomnia and panic attacks.
“With the accumulation of illnesses, my body and mind were breaking down and I started to feel so unwell that I had to keep going back to the doctor.”
Her account of what happened when she tried to complain is particularly damning: “As a Black person, you complain to a manager, who has no understanding of racism.
“They then say there’s no merit to your complaint. You unpick their reasoning and appeal, and then your manager’s manager will then tell you – the only person who’s experienced the racism – that what you experienced was not racism. It’s torture without the bruising.”
The comment from the MoJ is risible:
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to discrimination of any sort. All allegations are investigated fully and action taken where necessary.”
I have a few doubts about that, considering Ms Ebanks’s story.
So let’s think: why would a government ministry make such a claim, in the face of evidence from a victim of sustained racism over a period of 20 years that has resulted in that ministry paying out a six-figure sum of money to end court proceedings?
(And let’s bear in mind that this is not the only case – the source story mentions Kay Badu, who also received a six-figure sum over racism claims.)
Well, isn’t it true that sustained racism of this kind has a “chilling” effect on people of the ethnic group against which that discrimination is being shown?
In other words, aren’t people of the same ethnic group put off applying for government jobs?
So by claiming not to tolerate discrimination – while actually perpetrating it time and time again – the government and its departments ensure that they remain the playgrounds of privileged white boys and girls.
Isn’t that the aim?
If not, then let’s see some evidence of good conscience. How many people have been sacked for perpetrating this “insidious” and sustained racism? What measures have been put in place to monitor it? What is being done to ensure that complaints are taken seriously?
I think we can all guess the answers to those questions: none, none and nothing.
Am I right, MoJ?
Source: ‘It strips your humanity’: Civil servant wins six-figure sum over ‘insidious’ Ministry of Justice racism
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