I am Not My Stereotype: Mac Alonge – The Equal Group Founder about 56 Black Men

Over the last few months, you may have come across a striking visual campaign showing 56 black men in hooded tops, which has been picked up by a number of media giants including BBC, Sky news, Al-Jazeera and channel5. The campaign showcases 56 black men that are all doing progressive things and whose professions cover a range of career choices from politics to media and arts to entrepreneurship. I have had the privilege of being a part of this campaign.

The campaign is the brainchild of Cephas Williams, CEO and founder of Drummer Boy Studios. Cephas, an entrepreneur from South-East London, created the campaign after facing a number of barriers in trying to grow and galvanise support for his business.

Media coverage of black men

My assessment of the problem, or part of it at least, is that the media are always keen and willing to promote negative portrayals of black men in a disproportionate manner. At the same time, there is a distinct lack of media coverage when it comes to black men that are doing positive things – which there are many.

The effect of this disproportionately negative media representation spills over into the professional world. It manifests through both conscious and unconscious biases impacting decisions around recruitment, pay, promotion and even disciplinary actions. For people who do not have daily interactions with positive and progressive black men, the assumption – based on what the media depicts, is that black men are largely delinquents, not very intelligent and can only excel in sports and entertainment.

Building a career in the energy industry as a black man

Having worked within the energy industry for the last 10 years, I have seen this play out first hand as reflected in the distinct absence of black men in senior positions within the sector and within society in general.

As a young man I was told, and bought into the concept, that I’d have to work twice as hard to get ahead in life. I realised relatively quickly that not only was this unsustainable, the situation was actually far more severe. A study conducted by the DWP found that applicants with a white sounding name were 74% more likely to receive a positive response to an initial job application – and that’s not to mention the work needed to a) get the job following the subsequent interview(s), then b) progress within that role.

Having been exposed to senior levels of the corporate and political world’s it’s very apparent that nepotism and the “old boys club” culture is still very much at play. So how do black men have any chance of progressing, within an environment that so clearly depicts them as thugs and vagrants?

The idea behind the 56 Black Men campaign

The 56 black men movement is a starting point. The campaign seeks to initiate a conversation. To expose people to the reality that black men are and can be so much more than the media has portrayed (and failed to portray) us as.

Cephas and the 56 black men team have launched a GoFundMe campaign to ensure that the campaign doesn’t climax with some press coverage and a few sound bites – but that a significant change is made to the way that black men are represented in the media, within the business world and within society as a whole.

How can we build a more inclusive society and embrace diversity?

As a society, we might have inherited a system where nepotism and an “old boys club” culture dominates corporate and political life, but the onus is on us to create the world that we want to leave to future generations. This is one of the reasons my team and I established The Equal Group – our goal is to develop a more equitable means of recruiting, paying and promoting people in the work place through innovative tech and strategic advice.

Caption: The Equal Group team

In conclusion, we must all be proactive in calling out damaging and limiting narratives – we have to be responsible and accountable for the world we live in. The responsibility does not rest with Cephas as the founder and brains behind the movement, it does not rest with the 56 black men either. This responsibility falls on all of us within our individual spheres of influence.

To find out more about the 56 Black Men campaign and to contribute – please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/56blackmen

To find out more about how The Equal Group can help you optimise your equality, diversity and inclusion efforts – please visit: https://theequalgroup.com

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