RPS president Sandra Gidley

RPS president Sandra Gidley has apologised for her ‘insensitive’ comments on discrimination faced by pharmacists from the BAME background.

The comment and apology have, however, sparked a debate on the unconscious bias and micro-aggressions black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pharmacists face in their workspace.

“As a BAME pharmacist of over 30 years I have lived experience of racism,” pharmacist Usha Kaushal wrote on Twitter responding to Gidley’s apology.

“By your admission and apology of trying to understand this, will hopefully encourage others to practice allyship, and be a voice that supports, black, indigenous, and people of color.”

Gidley has drawn flak for questioning the role of two BAME pharmacists – Aamer Safdar and Mohammed Hussain, current and former members respectively of the GPhC Council – in advancing the inclusive agenda in a tweet.

She was responding to Hussain’s comment on the lack of progress in relation to a 2016 GPhC report on the experiences of Black-African candidates in the registration assessment.

Gidley admitted that tagging the two in the tweet was an ‘unthinking’ reaction and apologised personally to both.

“I want to apologise sincerely and publicly to Aamer Safdar and Mohammed Hussain and anyone else who read my comments,” she wrote.

“My initial, unthinking reaction was to challenge the first two people who came to mind because I knew them both. I recognise now how my approach applied unnecessary and unwanted pressure to both Mohammed and Aamer.

“I am so sorry, because I would be the first to say that the discrimination faced by Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) pharmacists can only be tackled if we all work together to resolve these huge issues.”

She added that she would do more to advocate for BAME pharmacists, starting with a learning plan.

“I have always spoken out against injustice and challenged overt racism but the bigger challenge is to understand, and then take action to address, the very real racial inequalities that exist in our society. By taking the time to educate myself further, and working with others, I can play my part in making pharmacy the profession become truly equal.”

While Gidley’s public apology is generally welcomed as a step in right direction, some sounded a note of caution.

“A comment such as this reflects the true deeper thinking of the individual. It cannot be left at this moment with a simple apology and a learning action plan put in place,” a pharmacist told Pharmacy Business.

While another pharmacist opined: “I’m sorry but I fail to understand how it (Gidley’s initial reaction) can be called racist. I don’t get what all the fuss is about.”

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