“Racism Doesn’t Exist at the Top” Rastafarian Soldier Who Won Against MoD Says

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Photo Credits: Roberto Catarinicchia via Unsplash

A Rastafarian soldier has won a case against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after he was denied entry into the army barracks because a white guard didn’t believe he was a soldier. The tribunal favoured Dwight Pile-Gray, a lance sergeant who joined the military in 2005.

Mr Pile-Gray described how he was treated differently because of his appearance and believed this influenced the guard’s decision to deny him entry. He was accused of “playing the race card” when he challenged the guard.

Mr Pile-Gray subsequently made a service complaint, which was dismissed. The Rastafarian soldier then filed a claim to an employment tribunal, which found in his favour. The tribunal found that the MoD had discriminated against Mr Pile-Gray because of his race.

The case has brought attention to the issue of racism in the British Armed Forces. It has highlighted the need for greater awareness and understanding of the experiences of ethnic minority soldiers.

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What Exactly Happened

Rastafarian Soldier Told to “Stop Playing The Race Card

On July 19, 2021, Lance Sergeant Dwight Pile-Gray, a Rastafarian soldier with 16 years of service in the British Army, was denied entry into his barracks at Wellington Barracks, London. He was returning from a medical appointment and had left his ID in the barracks. Upon seeing him in civilian clothes, the white guard at the gate refused to believe he was a soldier. Pile-Gray tried to explain his identity, but the guard insisted that he “could not be a soldier because of the way he looked.”

Pile-Gray then went to see an officer to report the incident. The officer dismissed his complaint and told him to “stop playing the race card”, knowing that he was a Rastafarian soldier. Pile-Gray was then charged with insubordination. He felt that he had no choice but to resign from the Army in November 2021.

Pile-Gray filed an employment tribunal case against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in February 2022. The case was heard in June 2023 and the tribunal found in Pile-Gray’s favour. The tribunal found that Pile-Gray had been discriminated against based on his race and awarded him compensation of £140,000.

Soldier Takes His Case to an Employment Tribunal

Being a Rastafarian soldier, Pile-Gray has experienced several discriminatory incidents, such as being questioned for his appearance as he was the first Rastafarian soldier to be allowed to wear his hair in locks. Additionally, being a Rastafarian soldier, Pile-Gray has been subjected to many racially offensive words in his presence. 

The tribunal’s judgment found that Pile-Gray was “denied his right to be treated fairly and with dignity” and that the MoD had failed to “take appropriate steps to investigate and address his complaints.” The judgment also found that the MoD had created a culture of “fear and intimidation” in which ethnic minority soldiers were “discouraged from complaining about racism.”

The case has been widely reported in the media and has sparked a debate about racism in the British Armed Forces. The MoD has said that it is committed to tackling racism and discrimination in the armed forces and that it is taking steps to improve the experiences of ethnic minority soldiers. However, Pile-Gray’s case has raised concerns about whether the MoD is doing enough to address the issue.

The case has also highlighted the need for greater awareness and understanding of the experiences of ethnic minority soldiers. 

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Past Racism Incidents at the MoD

The case of the Rastafarian soldier Lance Sergeant Dwight Pile-Gray is not an isolated incident of racism in the British Armed Forces. There have been several other incidents in recent years that have highlighted the issue.

In 2019, Private Inoke Momonakaya, a Fijian soldier, was awarded £490,000 by an employment tribunal after he was subjected to racial discrimination and harassment while serving in the British Army. Momonakaya was ordered to dress as a Taliban insurgent for an Army training video, and he was also subjected to derogatory and racist comments from his colleagues.

The MoD has said that it is committed to tackling racism and discrimination in the armed forces, but it is clear that there is still much work to be done. To create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all soldiers, the MoD needs to do more to address the issue of racism. This includes providing training for all staff on how to identify and deal with racism and creating a culture of accountability where racism is not tolerated.

The experiences of Rastafarian soldier Dwight Pile-Gray and other ethnic minority soldiers should serve as a wake-up call to the MoD. The armed forces need to do more to create an environment where all soldiers feel welcome and respected, regardless of their race or background.

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