On 11th September 2017, Yentyl Williams, ACP YPN President and Founder, moderated the panel on ‘Inter-sectionality in law and practice’ as part of Linklater’s Diversity & Inclusions week. She had the honour to join Jason-Louise Graham, Knowledge & Learning, Linklaters who spear-headed the initiative, and Alfiaz Vaiya, Coordinator of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI).
Jason-Louise Graham provided a brief summary of the meaning of intersectionality by summarising the legal case of Emma DeGraffenreid v. GENERAL MOTORS (GM) 1976. The Court dismissed the case because GM had hired women, albeit white, and it had hired black people, albeit men. The court did not see the problem and would not let Emma DeGraffenreid benefit from two separate claims in one go. The court dismissed the case because the facts did not fit into the available lens or frame so it could not easily incorporate these facts into its way of reasoning, thus creating a blind spot. In other words, Crenshaw concluded: We cannot see/identify a problem when we do not have words to communicate about it, and we cannot communicate about it unless we can see it, but we cannot see it unless we have the correct lens to see with. The court did not have the correct lens. After discovering this case, in the 1980’s, Professor Kimberly Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality. She uses the word to explain that people’s identities are multi-dimensional – something we are all aware of. But identities are the layered in power – some with mostly dominant characteristics, while others are layered with more (or mostly) non-dominant, or marginalising characteristics. When multiple social ‘problems’ overlap, they create multiple levels of social injustice.
Alfiaz presented on Mainstreaming Anti-Racism & Inter-Sectionality based on his work as co-ordinator of ARDI. He presented the two CJEU cases: G4S v Achbita and Bougnaoui and explained the following: 1) ‘Neutrality’, set of norms based on the historical development of the majority population of any country, historical social construct, subject to change; 2) One cannot be neutral only by removing certain visible signs, a broad and diverse range of behaviours, opinions, ideas exist that cannot be “neutralized”; 3) Neutrality should be required for the tasks you perform as an employee, not for the clothes you wear; 4) Generally, policies of neutrality are used to justify restrictions on the ability of religious, ethnic and racial minorities to manifest their religion. Neutrality policies do not tend to be used to counter the effect of broader, mainstream and more invisible influences in the work-place; 5) Policies of neutrality are not neutral – they exclude some symbols of difference (religious symbols) but not others (clothing signifying gender); 6) Policies of neutrality disproportionately affect those choosing to visibly manifest their religion over those who do not or those who do not have a religion; 7) Workplaces in Europe should be the reflection of an increasingly diverse Europe and not only open to those who fit white secular norms.
Yentyl posed several questions to Alfiaz, including ‘Are there national frontiers within the debate on racial equality?’ and gave input with regards to the work that ACP YPN is doing to increase diversity and inclusion at the level of the EU e.g. starting with promoting diversity at the College of Europe, but also recently co-signing a joint CSO letter on recommendations for the European Commission’s Diversity & Inclusion Strategy. There was active participation from the audience, with all questions coming from senior management. Yentyl referenced the finding’s of the Deloitte Human Capital Trends report 2017, which aptly states that ‘diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative, engaged, and creative in their work‘.
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What is ARDI? The European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) exists to promote racial equality, counter racism, and educate about non-discrimination in the work of the European Parliament. It aims to be at the heart of parliamentary work for racial equality, and against all discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, and nationality. The Intergroup also looks at discrimination based on these grounds together with gender and age.
What does ARDI do? ARDI works to 1) Mainstream anti-racism and diversity in European Parliament policy areas such as migration, and support initiatives on other discrimination grounds (such as the adoption of the European Union (EU) Equal Treatment Directive); 2) Adopt calls for national strategies to combat Afrophobia, anti-Gypsyism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, as well as ensure the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategy in line with non-discrimination standards, and identify key policy areas to advance equality; 3) Strengthen EU and national legal basis to tackle all crimes of hate speech and crime and to ensure investigation and prosecution of racist crimes; 4) Implement appropriate disciplinary and self-regulatory mechanisms in the European Parliament to help combat hate speech in the European Parliament and by European political leaders; 5) Promote diversity in the workplace and in political participation.
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