There is no doubt that racial discrimination occurs in pharmacy. How widespread it is and how it affects individuals’ mental health, wellbeing and career progression is not fully known – we must find out.
With the global surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, leaders across the world have pledged to end racial inequality and even the playing field for black citizens.
Several pharmacy organisationshave woken up to the reality of racism in pharmacies, and as a consequence have been quick to join the global pledge. Hope for a more inclusive, fairer and equal profession is on the horizon.
But how certain are we that the promises and changes will come fast enough? While good intentions are a noble starting point, they will hardly change years of embedded systemic and institutional racism.
Change can be scary, and it takes time. We need to be creative if we are going to uproot racial discrimination from pharmacy.
If we are to be successful in dismantling the systems that allow racial inequality in our profession, then we will pull down systems that discriminate against other protected characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion among others as if they were houses of cards.
That is why the sector needs to invest time and financial resources into a pharmacy organisation tasked with driving forward equality and inclusion. An organisation that will at a minimum:
- Monitor workforce race relations
- Research the impact that racial discrimination has on registrants and services
- Report to regulators, organisations and individuals that refuse to comply with equality laws
Racial discrimination manifests in many forms and can be subtle. It is massively under-reported and constantly denied. Some people in positions of power may use it as a tool to bully, intimidate and harass others.
Now is the time to create and finance an independent and unique pharmacy body to monitor and implement pharmacy workforce standards of racial equality. We have the expertise and the willingness to call out race discrimination and remove it from our profession.
So, why not come together and make change happen? Let’s not waste any more time – let’s walk the walk together to a more inclusive pharmacy profession. The benefits can be very rewarding if we can envision what they would look like. Just imagine a pharmacy profession where members:
- Are recognised and rewarded for their contribution
- Can safely report and hold to account colleagues or managers that discriminate against them
- Don’t have to risk losing their jobs and careers if they speak up and speak out
- Know their personal experiences of discrimination will be taken seriously and acted upon
- Their skin colour is not directly connected to low wages or poor outcomes in registration exams
- Are equally protected when facing a deadly global pandemic like COVID-19
- Can recognise themselves in the managers and leaders because they look like them
- Can celebrate where they are from with pride rather trying to hide it for the sake of fitting in
The points outlined above are not utopian. It could be the reality of our profession if we work together with intention and desire to make changes.
But achieving change will take time, courage, determination, compassion, resilience and money. Ultimately what the future of our profession looks like is up to us, no one else.
Elsy Gomez Campos is founder and president of the UK Black Pharmacists Association