A claim of harassment and racial discrimination against the Ministry of Defence was successfully pursued by one of the initial Rastafarian guardsmen of the British Army.
A dispute in the guardroom, according to Dwight Pile-Gray, during which a white guard denied his status as a soldier, marked the end of his sixteen-year Army tenure.
A soldier accused him of “playing the race card” in response to his challenge. His appeal to an employment tribunal was successful.
The MoD stated that it would not tolerate any form of harassment, bullying, or discrimination.
When he first addressed the incident in public, he stated that he believes his case demonstrates that it is more detrimental to be accused of racism in the Army than to truly be racist.
The employment hearing took place in June, and in October, Mr. Pile-Gray received notification that he had prevailed.
Dwight Pile-Gray claims he anticipated standing out in the Army his entire life.
Before anyone else, he was the first Rastafarian soldier authorized to wear his hair in tresses. Additionally, unlike the majority, he enlisted at the age of 37.
As an accomplished musician, he enlisted with the Royal Corps of Army Music in 2005. After performing on the French horn in a number of military ensembles, he was eventually appointed to the Band of the Grenadier Guards.
Mr. Pile-Gray attended dozens of state events while tying his hair back to suit his bearskin. “I joined the Army with no ill will towards what I might discover,” he asserts. “But I was full of optimism.”
According to him, other officers were perpetually curious about his appearance: “Why are you permitted to wear your hair that way? Shouldn’t you be advocating for pacifism? Are you not a narcotic user?”
Mr. Pile-Gray attributes such remarks to his own “ignorance.” However, he claims that things were worse. He claims that soldiers used racially objectionable language in his presence, including the N-word. Particularly offensive and bigoted inquiries were directed at the dimensions of his genitalia.
Such ignorance, according to Mr. Pile-Gray, did not prevent him from enjoying his position or advancing in the ranks. He was promoted to the rank of lance sergeant.
In July 2021, however, he was involved in a dispute with two white soldiers in the base’s guardroom at Wellington Barracks in central London.
Mr. Pile-Gray had previously attended a medical appointment within the compounds; however, he had since departed to make a telephone inquiry. He had inadvertently neglected to bring his identification card.
He was attired in common attire and adorned himself with eyeglasses, while his hair was exposed.
Upon his return, he claims the white lance corporal on duty was “so shocked that I could be considered a soldier that he actually leaned back into the guard room and remarked, ‘This gentleman believes he left his identification inside.'”
He further states, “I was treated entirely differently on account of my appearance.” After many years of experience in this field, I am able to discern when an interaction contains a racial component.
According to Mr. Pile-Gray, he confronted the soldier, who was subordinate to him, and was subsequently re-admired after another individual acknowledged his identity.
He claims that he changed back into his uniform and presented himself to the lance corporal as evidence that he was a soldier and to demonstrate that he had the ability to manage the situation more effectively.
During the subsequent dialogue, the lance corporal levied the accusation that he was “playing the race card.” In response, a white sergeant, who was a more experienced soldier, became involved.
According to Mr. Pile-Gray, the sergeant stated, “He showed no interest if I attempted to turn the situation into a race.” The sergeant allegedly instructed him to “examine my office,” highlighting its multicultural nature, before concluding, “We cannot be racist.”
His response to the exchange was one of “utter bewilderment.” Mr. Pile-Gray acknowledges that he subsequently became irate and recounts being forcibly removed from the guardroom.
After explaining the incident to an officer, he was subsequently asked if he wished to file a complaint. Mr. Pile-Gray stated that he intended to explain to the parties involved why their conduct was improper and proposed mediation.
“They had no comprehension or notion that their statements were in fact racist,” he asserts.
Army Faces Allegations and Legal Action
In the end, however, it was decided that Mr. Pile-Gray would be subject to disciplinary action. Over time, he was formally accused of disobedience.
According to Mr. Pile-Gray, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” had occurred. I was unable to persist in an organization that so flagrantly disregarded my emotions and well-being while actively aiming to corrupt me.
Mr. Pile-Gray lodged a complaint regarding the service, which was ultimately denied. Subsequently, he initiated proceedings before the employment tribunal, which rendered its decision earlier this year.
His allegations of victimization, racial harassment, and blatant race discrimination were upheld.
The Ministry of Defense refrains from providing commentary on specific cases. It stated, however, in a statement, that it would not tolerate any form of harassment, bullying, or discrimination.
Officials from the Ministry of Defense stated that they actively encouraged personnel to report inappropriate conduct and had implemented measures to enhance the military experience for all.
High-Ranking Military Officials Accused of Downplaying Racism Concerns
Mr. Pile-Gray asserts that individuals occupying higher-ranking positions within the Army find it difficult to comprehend the gravity of racism issues.
He stated that racial remarks would not be tolerated when senior black officers were present. “At the highest level, it does not exist,” he further stated. “You are going to be addressed as ‘sir’ by them. However, consider yourself a black private individual. You are destined to be exposed to that information on a daily basis.”
Emma Norton, representing the Centre for Military Justice, provided Mr. Pile-Gray with legal assistance.
She claims that the chain of command not only disregarded his concerns regarding racial bias. But also gas-lighted him for having the audacity to voice them.
She asserts that the Army’s response, including throughout the litigation, was disastrous. She additionally stated: “It’s lost an excellent soldier in the process.”