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RIBA to investigate diversity manager’s ‘all lives matter’ comment

Portland Place
  • 18 Comments

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

riba black lives matter

Screen shot of the ‘all lives matter’ comment 

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. 

  • 18 Comments

Readers' comments (18)

  • Well said Robert...and good citation of James Lovelock, who regards humanity as a virus on the planet...over-populated, destructive and out of control. All species matter, and we are just one, that seems unable to live in harmony with each other or the planet. Snow leopards’ lives matter!

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  • Anne hasn’t a racist bone in her body. This is no doubt causing her a huge amount of stress and the witch hunt unnecessary.
    As others have pointed out a genuine mistake. We all make these. They don’t go public like this.
    In these stressful times I think we need to be more forgiving.

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  • what do they do except take huge amounts of our money to run their gilded palace?

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  • the replys here are very troubling. they really hint at much wider structural problems with the industry

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  • The poor woman. Pilloried by snarling virtue-signallers.

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  • Jon Ronson's book should be a must read for those who spending time posting on social media. A salutary lesson. 'So You've Been Publicly Shamed' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_You%27ve_Been_Publicly_Shamed

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  • I suppose you will all get offended if I mention white privilege. It may be a gross assumption, but are the majority of those of you who defend her words, white middle aged men. She is the face of inclusivity at the RIBA and should know better. I feel my ethnicity keenly whenever I am at the RIBA as a Asian architect who is nothing but British. Get over your indignation, this is real and we deserve equal opportunities, not having to be better than everyone else just to get to the same position. This issue also applies for women in architecture, but I feel it keenly that race is too controversial for the RIBA to really grapple.

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  • Industry Professional

    Personally, Mr Pinto, I have not been trying to defend her words on the basis that it is right to defend the debateable "All Lives Matter". It is just that the meaning of her whole phrase "Discrimination and racism of any kind is unacceptable, etc..." was reasonably clear to me.
    I do not know her at all and I have absolutely no connection with the RIBA. I just hope that she gets a fair hearing rather than being made a scapegoat to allow others to carry on as they have before. Black lives do matter.

    I am motivated by the fact that, despite not wanting to joint the protesting crowds with placards, I do not want to be put under the banner of "White silence is violence".
    Jeffrey - an engineer (yet again)

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