English Heritage bosses have denied being discriminatory after launching a training programme aimed only at Black, Asian or ‘Minority Ethnic Heritage’ people, adding that they already have sufficient numbers of white applicants.
Resources director Mark Stuart-Smith, in a response letter to former UKIP candidate Catherine Blaiklock, said the initiative was needed to “address” the under-representation of BAME people through “positive action” training programmes. He said such measures were permitted under section 158 of the Equality Act and that English Heritage was “proud of our engagement with this training scheme, which is only one of a number of ways in which we intend to remove the barriers that exist for minority groups”.
The organisation claims in the three-page letter dated 11th May 2018 that research had suggested to them that the heritage sector was “the domain of the white middle-class”. And, because of that, it was important to do “everything we can to dispel that myth” and encourage non-white applicants to consider English Heritage as a place to further their careers.
The rebuttal comes after guest contributor Ms Blaiklock published an open letter on Shy Society in April questioning how they defined someone’s ‘ethnic heritage’ and referencing Martin Luther-King’s desire to get to a stage where people were not judged by the colour of their skin.
“Why should one race of people be denied a training placement at the expense of another just because of their skin pigmentation? Isn’t that the opposite of equality?” she wrote.
Although English Heritage were quick to point out that this criteria only applied to training placements and not the main recruitment process, it remained unclear about who could actually apply for the training programme after they stated it focused on “those who self-identify as BAME”.
Mr Stuart-Smith went on: “Applicants to this scheme self-report their ethnicity and are deemed to be BAME unless they report themselves to be either: White British / White Scottish / White English / White Welsh / White Irish; or Any other White background.”
He added: “Such schemes are not discriminatory; they exist to encourage. The reason for this scheme is because we already have sufficient numbers of applications from individuals who consider themselves to be of white heritage.
“I realise that not everyone will be supportive of schemes such as this, but I hope that this letter explains our involvement and why we feel it is so important.”
Ms Blaiklock responded: “It is utter nonsense. If you can self-identify for your gender, and now your ethnicity, I suppose you can self-identify your age and level of qualifications too? Where does this madness end?”
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