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Racial injustice and Covid 19

“Everyone is not experiencing Covid in the same way,” said Dr Karen Salt, Deputy Chair of the UKRI External Advisory Group for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. “Covid has highlighted what is already unfair.” Salt was speaking on the topic of “Racial Injustice and Covid 19” at the first of our Diversity in Chemistry Webinars held in February,

Joined by successful businesswoman and entrepreneur Dr Maggie Semple, the two speakers led a thought-provoking session on systemic racial injustice. Semple pointed out that people who are categorised as BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups) “are not categorised of their own choosing.” She asked: “How can the BAME community trust systems that have systemically worked against them?”

The webinar was followed by a wide-ranging question and answer session, fielded by Professor Melinda Duer, which many viewers said they wished could have been longer.

Unseen disabilities

The second webinar featured Professor Hisham Ziauddeen, a Clinical Senior Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Kenneth Ewing, Specific Learning Difficulty advisor at the University’s Disability Resource Centre, and was on “Unseen Disabilities”, which can range from neurodiversity, sensory impairment, chronic physical, neurological and mental illness.  

“People with an unseen disability are just telling you about the tip of the iceberg – they have gone through all this numerous times and most have already received a diagnosis,” pointed out Ziauddeen, who is also a University Wellbeing and Disability Champion. “You don’t need to question them about their disability or determine whether their needs are genuine – the most important thing to do is ask them what they need and listen.”  

Ewing explained the concept of Universal Design, in which workplaces are set up in an inclusive manner, so adaptations are seen as being ‘add-ons’ and  people with an unseen disability don’t stand out.  The webinar was again followed by a stimulating question and answer session.


Both webinars were recorded and can be viewed on the Department YouTube channel.

The Department received excellent feedback from the webinars, and will be discussing our own action plan for dealing with some of the issues raised. We intend to continue these annual Diversity events, and our grateful thanks go the University Diversity Fund for their financial support.


Tips for challenging the status quo

Redressing racial injustice

•    Find someone with a completely different view and convince them otherwise – don’t be silent.
•    Note the culture you are in and make efforts to change it.
•    Small actions make a huge difference.
•    Be kind.

Unseen disabilities

•    Be less judgmental/more empathetic.
•    The ‘cost of functioning normally’ may be exhausting.
•    The problem is real and they have already tried other options.
•    Listen.