#BioNTech, founded in 2008 by the German scientists and married couple Professor Şahin and Dr Özlem Türeci (as well as the Austrian oncologist Christoph Huber), announced good news to the world jointly with #Pfizer that it had developed its coronavirus vaccine which could end the pandemic. The couple, both children of Turkish migrants were left bristling at the suggestion that he or his partner ‘could become role models for a generation of Germans with migrant backgrounds’.
Professor Ugur Sahin Tureci (Chief Executive and co-founder of BioNTech) replied: “I am not sure I really want that. I think we need a global vision that gives everyone an equal chance. Intelligence is equally distributed across all ethnicities, that’s what all the studies show. As a society we have to ask ourselves how we can give everyone a chance to contribute to society. I am an accidental example of someone with a migration background. I could have equally been German or Spanish.” [Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/12/scientist-behind-biontech-pfizer-coronavirus-vaccine-says-it-can-end-pandemic?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other%5D
What such an ‘innocent’ question does is reveal the deeply embedded prejudice that suggests that talent and competence is some how a product of ethnicity and race, namely driven by #WhiteSupremacy ideology and debunked ‘Race Science’ that has created a racial hierarchy so when a BAME/BIPOC (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority or Black, Indigenous person of Colour) is recognised publicly with such capabilities they are assumed to be an exception rarely seen amongst ‘immigrants’ or people of a darker shade. This prejudiced mindset is the result of social conditioning that promotes negative stereotypes about immigrants being non-contributors in host countries they have made their home adding to the rich diversity of ideas and culture to make a positive difference. People are people the world over when given a sense of belonging so they can thrive and be celebrated rather than ‘tolerated’. Those claiming to be ‘virtuous for being ‘tolerant’ of those different to themselves on the basis of personal characteristics such as skin colour need to reflect on what it is they are having to be tolerant about.
Despite being an immigrant originally from Pakistan in the late 1960’s myself I was recently asked when I was going ‘home’ to help unlettered women like my mother given my track record of striving for equity and equality as founder of Respect at Work Ltd and with 40 year HR career. I thought after 50+ years in the UK I was ‘home’. This sense of daily lived experiences of ‘othering’ and questioning a person’s credentials and identity on the basis of their skin colour when they find themselves as the #FirstOnlyLast in a white space acts to promote white European and similarly British exceptionalism really needs to be seen for what it is and be nipped in the bud immediately it is expressed so the virus of racism does not continue to spread.
#Belonging #Equity #Justice #InstitutionallRacism #HRSoiWhite #CIPD #RaceScience #CoronaVirusPandemic #Vaccine #C19
Safia Boot – Founder Respect at Work Limited
Date: Friday 13 November 2020
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