My Career, Influences and Motivation to make a difference
In 2016, Stacey Stanhope was awarded an MBE for her services to Law and Order and particularly equality and diversity. Here, the CPS North West Area Equality, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager and the Communications Officer for the National Black Crown Prosecution Association speaks to bHM magazine about her career to date, working for the CPS, her influences, as well as what drives and motivates her.
In 2016, I had the honour of being awarded an MBE for services to Law and Order. I spent many an enjoyable summer in Westmoreland, Jamaica, with my great grandmother, whose mother was a slave. The irony is not lost on me; it’s both poignant and optimistic. Poignant in that my paternal ancestors were brutalised and forcibly removed to create wealth for the empire, the
consequences of which we are still having to tackle by continuing to fight racism and discrimination; but optimistic, in that their spirit overcame the harshest of circumstances, so much so that today a black woman can be a beneficiary of the honours system. Their strength, courage and sacrifice is a constant reminder that I cannot waste opportunities, as not everyone is in a position to take advantage of them and not everyone is given the same life chances.
I have always wanted to work in an environment where I could help challenge discrimination and hate. The opportunity presented itself in 2008 when I joined the Crown Prosecution Service as the North West Area Equality, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager.
Working for the CPS continuously challenges and motivates me. My colleagues are passionate and committed to supporting victims and bringing people who commit hate crimes and other crimes to justice. I also have the privilege and honour of working with some remarkable people from the voluntary community sector, whose lives revolve around ensuring that people feel safe within their communities, and work with the police and CPS to ensure that victims of hate crime and domestic violence are supported.
One of the most rewarding projects I collaborated on was the development of three CPS-funded hate crime resources for schools on disability, racist, religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime. The survivors of hate crime who worked with me on the project were courageous, and selflessly shared their experiences so that perpetrators could understand the very real hurt and lasting damage hate crime can cause, not just to the people they target, but also to themselves.
They also wanted victims to find hope and reassurance in their stories of coming through adversity and how they found the support they needed to make the bullying stop. As Nelson Mandela once said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Working with truly committed colleagues on that project – the teachers, film makers and hate crime advocates – was phenomenal, and the impact it had on me and many others who worked on it was profound.
One of the other things I enjoy about working for the organisation is its commitment to staff development and staff networks. I am a member of the National Black Crown Prosecution Association, an organisation that is funded by the CPS and supports BME staff to realise their potential, and works with them to overcome the barriers, both real and perceived, that may be preventing them from leading fulfilling lives and careers. The chair of the association, Ruona Iguyovwe, is an exceptional leader and lawyer who encourages and supports network members to do better and be better in their respective roles.
The NBCPA has played a key role in my career development. They have ensured that I have had access to courses to further my personal development, provided guidance and also ensured that some of the work I have undertaken on behalf of the CPS was recognised and celebrated by my peers by presenting me with NBCPA awards for Management and Challenging Hate Crime in 2014.
I feel very fortunate as I know that, although very important, it’s not just hard work that enables you to achieve your goals. Luck, surrounding yourself with positive people who believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself, who work with you and not against you, who are kind and compassionate, who will you to do better and be better, who offer honest supportive feedback and who add value to your life and share similar values is also important. I am also fortunate enough to have a husband who is my best friend, kind and hugely supportive; parents who ensured I received a good education and surrounded me with good role models in my formative years; a white maternal grandmother who brought me up with love and patience and taught me how to be more resilient in my mid-teens as I struggled to come to terms with racism whilst living in Liverpool; and siblings who challenge me to think in new and interesting ways.
I also have confident, bright nieces and nephews who colour my world in the most wonderful ways with their questions, assertions and perspectives. I don’t want that confidence stripped away with racist and sexist remarks when they are older. So much so, that I feel obligated to help create for them a kinder world, one where there is less discrimination because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
I feel very strongly that people who are privileged enough to be in positions where they can challenge and fight discrimination have a duty and an obligation to give a voice to victims. Not just victims of hate crimes, but victims of workplace bullying and harassment, victims of domestic violence and victims of discriminatory employment practices. Not everyone has a voice, as some people work in environments where if they speak up about racism or sexism they are ostracised, or even worse.
If you think what has it got to do with me, it’s not my problem, you’re wrong. Everyone has a duty to fight casual racism and sexism, history tells us that freedoms are hard fought for and rights can be so easily taken away. We owe it to those who have given a voice to our struggles, who have fought selflessly for our freedoms in the past, who have brought about changes in legislation and attitudes, to continue their legacy and challenge discrimination, hate and prejudice wherever it rears its ugly head.
As writer and holocaust survivor Primo Levi said: “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
Slavery, the Holocaust, Srebrenica are all examples of man’s inhumanity to man and what can happen when we stop treating people with kindness, dignity and respect.
Our hard fought for rights come with responsibilities. As Martin Luther King Jr said: “Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.”