The RIBA has said it is ‘looking into’ a controversial LinkedIn comment made by its equality, diversity, and inclusion manager
Annie Cosentino, who is tasked with fighting racism in the institute and across the architecture industry, wrote ‘all lives matter’ as part of a response to a Black Lives Matter post on the social network.
The full comment read: ‘Discrimination and racism in any form is unacceptable, black lives, all lives matter’.
All Lives Matter is a slogan used by critics of the Black Lives Matter movement. The term is seen as a refusal to acknowledge systemic racism towards black people and the much greater threat of police violence black people face in the USA compared with white people.
Cosentino has since deleted the comment and said she is ‘deeply and truly sorry’ for the ‘hurt and offence’ caused, adding: ‘My intention was to advocate solidarity with the black community.’
Alan Vallance, chief executive of the RIBA, told the AJ: ‘The post has quite rightly been removed. We are looking into the matter and apologise unreservedly for any offence and concern it has caused.’
He added: ‘We take extremely seriously our responsibility to end discrimination, support equality and uphold the highest standards in our membership and in our own organisation.’
riba black lives matter
The RIBA declined to specify exactly what it is ‘looking into’ and what could come out of the investigation.
Chris Bradley, an architect and RIBA member who spotted the LinkedIn comment, said it is indicative of institutional racism at the organisation.
‘The structurally racist fault here is in [the RIBA’s] recruitment of an equality, diversity and inclusion manager who either doesn’t know All Lives Matter is a highly charged phrase, or is lazy enough with their role to use it in a complacent way,’ he said.
‘The mistake shows us all how the RIBA requires a real and sustained challenge from white architects demanding change [at the institute] in alliance with black and Asian and other minority group architects.’
Bradley added: ‘In solidarity with my black colleagues, I have the following questions:
- Who exactly is present and in the room when strategic decisions are made about inclusive policy?
- Why are matters of race continuously met with silence and defensive fragility, whilst other equal opportunities are embraced enthusiastically?
- How does the complacency of the equality, diversity and inclusion manager’s work affect / undermine true inclusivity?
- How can the institute have confidence in communicating with minority members in the face of such poor performance?’
The question of systemic racism is likely to feature in the forthcoming election for a new RIBA President following Black Lives Matter protests around the world, as well as an AJ survey suggesting more than a quarter of BAME architects have faced racism in the workplace.
During the last presidential election, candidate Elsie Owusu was sent a cease and desist letter by the RIBA after accusing it of being ’institutionally racist’. Owusu was later removed from the institute’s Architects for Change group after an internal probe found no evidence for her allegations of racist and sexist bullying.
Back in 2006 the institute was also rocked by the revelation that Peter Phillips, one of three candidates running to be president, was a member of the far-right British National Party.
Last year the RIBA was also accused of being sexist when it organised a cookery class for parents to celebrate International Women’s Day.