Black History Month 2020: A view from Kemi Ojutiku
October is Black History Month in the UK and we asked barrister, arbitrator and mediator Kemi Ojutiku to share some thoughts. Please read what Kemi had to say below and follow #BlackHistoryMonth for information and guidance:
I have been asked to blog on Black History Month. The topic needs no introduction and I am honoured to be able to share some thoughts. By way of introduction I have been a Barrister for 26 years and am an Arbitrator and Mediator.
The issue of diversity in Arbitration gained world wide attention a couple of years ago when a certain Jay-Z, also known as Shawn Corey Carter, reportedly commented about the disparity of African American arbitrators on offer in an arbitration that he was engaged in. Out of 200 arbitrators initially proposed to consider the dispute, only two identified as African American and had no conflicts of interest. Mr. Carter took action and went on to achieve a more diverse panel of arbitrators to proceed with the arbitration.
It is extremely gratifying that this issue had been highlighted by such a renown artist, as it brought attention to the lack of diversity and inclusivity on such a far reaching scale. These two concepts in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) were and have continued to be a topic of conversation. Diversity and inclusivity should be the norm.
This is not only for the benefit of clients who see their tribunal as being reflective of modern society, themselves and their experiences, but it is also a basic principle of equality and fairness. On a more general note, we are all unique and bring different perspectives to the disputes that we are arbitrating or mediating.
Dealing with Racism
As we celebrate Black History Month, the recent reports in the media of racist conduct by some Court staff, legal personnel and colleagues in the same profession cannot be ignored.
Many of us have experienced and continue to experience the same or similar experiences. It may sound flippant, but in many respects it comes with the territory. That does not, of course, mean that it is acceptable.
My advice is;
1. Pick your battles – Don’t be derailed by some peoples’ ignorance and prejudice.
2. Deal with the situation there and then, where necessary, in a calm and dignified manner. Don’t stoop to their level.
3. Report matters to the requisite authority, where applicable.
I wish to focus attention on mentoring. This is a great way to support and help others coming into the profession or in need of some support and direction. I know from experience that it can sometimes be difficult to fit this in with one’s career and be an effective mentor, however it is very rewarding and worth the effort entailed. This can be either on a formal basis, through a professional body or informally on an ad hoc basis. 27th October 2020 was National Mentoring Day in the United Kingdom. This was launched to recognise and celebrate the benefits of mentoring.
Kemi Ojutiku, Barrister, mediator and Hunt ADR Arbitrator
5 Pump Court, Temple, London EC4Y 7AP