We need to talk about race

Compared to the rest of the UK, and indeed the world, Cumbria is noticeably dominated by white people. Although the upcoming census is likely to show a significant increase, at the last count, our population is 98.5% white and 96.5% white British.

This has allowed many here, Happy Mums included, to be complacent about reaching people of different ethnicities.

Whether or not the numbers may be comparatively small, it is the experience of minoritized women in Cumbria that is important. Indeed, because the numbers are smaller, women are perhaps more likely to experience exclusion, isolation and ignorance. There are also shocking inequalities around childbirth across the UK: black women are at least 4 times more likely to die than white women, something you can read more about at www.fivexmore.com. Black women are also less likely to receive early help for their mental health but more likely to sectioned.

The last year has seen unprecedented attention on the issue of race and inequality. It has become apparent, as it should have always been apparent, that silence is as harmful as overt racism. It is time to take action: for too long we have assumed at Happy Mums that because we felt welcoming, we would look that way to everybody.

Indeed, the very nature of peer support means there is always a danger that we recruit members who are like ourselves. Our mission to find common ground in the shared experience of mental illness around having a baby, can mean we fail to recognise the nuance of what makes us different – and in doing so cause more not less isolation.

It is time we stood up and shouted: we stand against discrimination and racism. We are taking action to be more inclusive and most importantly we pledge to not just not be racist, but to become actively anti-racist. In acting and talking about these issues we are bound to make mistakes but we believe it is better to open ourselves up to challenge than hide behind a fear of getting it wrong. Only then can we learn and grow as people and as an organisation.

The steps we are taking are as follows:

- exploring how we work with Anti-Racist Cumbria in our endeavours to become actively anti-racist (you can understand what this means more fully by visiting their website www.antiracistcumbria.org and more specifically reading these blogs Anti Racism; what it means and where to begin and eight books to start your anti-racist journey)

- creating an equality and diversity strategy and ensure it is embedded in all of our day-to-day operations

- adding inclusion into our values – and making sure our organisation lives our values in everything we do

- making sure our publicity materials, website and social media posts reflect these values, even where this means going against our policy of using photos of existing group members