Knowledge is power. That is the central ethos behind Katie Landsborough’s motivation to study law and launch a charity that aims to educate and empower the public to understand and engage with issues surrounding race and discrimination.
“I knew how strongly I felt about discrimination having faced some myself growing up as a mixed Black Caribbean and White British person and the only ethnic minority at my school when I was younger” she explains. With this as her driving motivation, Landsborough went to The University of Law (ULaw) fuelled with a desire to use her legal studies in order to do something to change the discriminatory attitudes and norms that she had observed growing up. “I not only wanted to learn about the law, but also improve my research and communication skills so that I had a good broad set of skills”.
Having graduated with first class honours, Landsborough continued her legal studies at ULaw on the LPC LLM course. During that time, she entered ULaw’s funding competition with what was to become the winning pitch for the charity A Race For Justice.
The work of the charity involves volunteers presenting workshops that cover terminology in relation to race and ethnicity (for example, white privilege, micro-aggressions, cultural appropriation), stereotypes, colourism and racial inequalities. Describing the workshops, she emphasised “I wanted to educate not lecture, so the workshops are very interactive. Some people feel very uncomfortable talking about race, which is something I really want to avoid. I want everyone to have some fun and learn something”.
The workshops allow participants to better understand other people’s perspectives. “Britain is very diverse, but we are not talking about this diversity enough! Schools today educate children about a variety of different issues and race isn’t one of them”. She emphasises that “we need to move away from simply ‘tolerating’ all cultures and instead accept and embrace them”.
A key distinction that Landsborough draws is that of direct and indirect discrimination such as microaggressions – for example, unintentionally treating a schoolchild differently because of their hair. This was the situation faced by Ruby Williams, a pupil who hit the headlines for repeatedly being sent home from school because her afro hair was “too big”. Williams began feeling anxious about going to school as a result and developed signs of depression. It is exactly these sorts of situations that Landsborough hopes to ensure are avoided at schools.
“People can be ignorant even if they don’t have bad intentions. Discussions on these issues shouldn’t be an argument where people feel they are on the attack or the defence. I want to get people to meet in the middle and feel more comfortable talking about race”. Having received a £5,000 grant from ULaw’s ‘Change the World Fund’ and mentorship from the likes of Rachel Wang (winner of Entrepreneur of the Year 2015), Landsborough has set about reaching out to a variety of institutions. At the time of writing, A Race For Justice has given talks to schools such as Shrewsbury College and professional institutions such as The Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario in Canada.
Landsborough’s courses also tackle issues of unconscious bias that can manifest itself as systemic racism. She points to shocking statistics such as the fact that black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched in the UK than white people. The 2017 Lammy report has also revealed a troubling “trust deficit” between the BAME community and the justice system. Landsborough believes that more transparency is needed in order to build trust in the police. On the issues around stop-and search, she argues that “the power the police have under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 should be restricted to reasonable grounds to ensure fairness and proportionate policing, as currently it has a very wide discretion”, adding that more diversity in police hiring, as well as groups that can support minority communities, would also be desirable.
One of the objectives of A Race For Justice’s work is to help people acknowledge these problems. “If we can get more people to meaningfully accept this reality then we will be able to have more productive discussions about how to solve these issues in the future”.
So, what makes a changemaker? An unbreakable passion and a daring determination won’t see you go far wrong. “You need to find something you’re really passionate about and give your unconditional commitment to that thing” advises Landsborough. “Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. If you are really passionate about that thing, show it. You’ll never know everything or be 100% prepared, so you may as well give it a go. I firmly believe that if you think something in your community needs changing, you should actively do something about it, even if you feel you wouldn’t make a huge difference on your own”.
Although the going can at times be tough, Landsborough has found the result truly rewarding. “If one participant, even if it is just one, feels more comfortable talking about race or feels like they now really understand and can empathise with the issues we are talking about, it feels like such a massive achievement”.
So, what next for A Race For Justice? As well as continuing to develop the workshops, Landsborough wants to see the charity do fundraising events and one day even start up a youth centre. “A Race For Justice is all about putting back into the community, so the more we can do that the better”.
About: Katie Landsborough is a first-class law graduate from The University of Law and winner of the ‘Change The World Fund’ £5000 grant for her charity A Race For Justice. Having experienced racism growing up, she founded her charity with the aim of spreading awareness about stereotypes, colourism and racial inequality.
This article was first published in our Verdict magazine – Read our Equality, Diversion & Inclusion Special now.