This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
What’s in a name?
I’m incredibly proud of, and care deeply about, the RPS’ inclusion and diversity work. It started well before I joined the board and now the RPS leads: across the pharmacy profession, among the royal colleges, and other healthcare professions. It is close to my heart and I hope this letter shows why. The concept of belonging resonates with me because for much of my life, I feel I have been ‘other’. Growing up, I endured racism and micro-aggressions, but I always felt my experience of racism paled in comparison to what I witnessed inflicted on other ethnic groups. And in the 80s and 90s, the term microaggression, unnamed and unknown, had not entered the vernacular.
My mother was born in Dorset, to parents from Preston and London. My late father was Malaysian Chinese, a polyglot; fluent in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka and Bahasa Melayu. My parents met in New Zealand, which is is where I was born. As a child, I vividly recall being teased for the shape of my eyes, colour of my skin and my surname. My father’s work took us across the globe for years at a time and I would yearn to return ‘home’ to New Zealand. But each time we came back, I didn’t fit in. Not looking, speaking or having the shared experience of the other kids, it took a long time to be comfortable and confident being my authentic self.
I mentor pharmacists through the RPS mentoring platform and recall a significant conversation with a young pharmacist. This pharmacist grew up overseas and because some people struggled to pronounce their name, they anglicised it for convenience. They asked whether they should continue using that name, or revert to their real name. Names are important. They can carry heritage and mana. But what is most important, is that this pharmacist chooses freely what they want to be called on their own terms.
I don’t take for granted how fortunate I am to feel a sense of belonging within our profession and the ability to present my authentic self. But this is not the case for everyone. I acutely feel the pain and conflict of individuals who desperately want to belong, but feel they need to change or hide something about themselves in order to do so. There is much more to do but we’ve made a great start.
Brendon Jiang, election candidate, English Pharmacy Board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society