Celebrating Black History Month – Matthew McCarthy
Name: Matthew McCarthy
Occupation: Commercial Director
Ethnic Background: Mixed race, white & black Caribbean
Family Origin: Jamaican mother & English father
In what generation did your family come to the UK? My mum moved to the UK from Jamaica in the late 1960s.
Matthew McCarthy was raised in Newcastle Under Lyme in Staffordshire and moved to Manchester shortly after completing a degree in Law at Lancaster University. He then spent a couple of years in sales, before leaving to pursue his own business interests. He is now the Commercial Director and co-owner of prominent online marketing agency, Red Cow Media, based in Manchester City Centre. After a stint living on the East Coast of America, Matthew now lives back in Manchester with girlfriend Kelly and their dog Louie.
What inspired you to pursue your chosen career?
I originally wanted to pursue a legal career but decided that it wasn’t for me shortly after completing my studies. I had a lot of success in the field of recruitment, but I never really found it fulfilling or stimulating and it became boring very quickly. After a lot of encouragement from my girlfriend, I decided to leave recruitment and go full time at Red Cow. It is the business aspects of my job that inspire me and Red Cow has triggered somewhat of an entrepreneurial spirit that I wasn’t aware I had. The sense of achievement and success are what I find most inspiring and I get a real feeling of fulfilment from it.
Do you feel there is a proportionate representation of minorities within your chosen field? If not, what do you think the government or society could/should be doing to encourage more people of minority backgrounds to pursue similar careers?
I wouldn’t say that it is necessarily proportionate, but I would say that it’s definitely better than most sectors. For example, at the Red Cow office a very high percentage of our staff are of minority or mixed descent. I think there are more and more black parents in the UK that are pushing their children to achieve by making use of the opportunities that their generation didn’t have, such as getting a university education. As a result of this, we now have a generation where extremely talented black marketers, SEOs, designers and developers are making their mark in our field. As a comparatively new industry, online marketing has been one of the first to benefit as the generation of up-and-comers have always been used to both technology, and a society where opportunities are open to all. I hope that this will pave the way for things to become more racially balanced at some point in the not too distant future.
Are there any aspects of your family’s culture that you feel were particularly prominent or evident in your upbringing, or that you are particularly fond of?
There are a number of things! Growing up, my parents, and particularly my mum, always pushed me to achieve things, both academically and athletically and I think that this was partly to do with taking hold of opportunities that she didn’t have growing up in Jamaica. There is also a great sense of community spirit in Caribbean families and my parents were always helping other people or doing charitable work, mostly associated with our church. I can’t pass this question by without also mentioning the food, I swear some of the best Caribbean cooks in England are in my family!
How are you currently/or do you plan to preserve an awareness of their background and heritage in your children & future generations? Is this something that you consider important?
Yes, this is something that is important to me. I plan to educate my future children on where their grandparents and great grandparents originated from as I think a varied background is something to celebrate and be proud of. I’d like for them to be aware of their full identity, to have an appreciation and understanding of the struggles that previous generations have faced, as well as knowing and benefitting from the fantastic features that come with having a Caribbean background.
Who would you consider to be the most iconic, pivotal or inspirational figure in black history & why?
Nelson Mandela. The courage he showed in the face of such staunch racial persecution was truly inspirational to people of all backgrounds. I also consider Mohammad Ali to be an iconic black figure, he was one of the first to set a precedent for minority athletes to become commonplace on the world stage.
Were you educated in black history growing up? Do you think, in light of and celebration of the UK’s diverse population, that black history should be taught in schools?
No, I wasn’t. The school I went to, although I wasn’t the only kid from a non-white background, wasn’t particularly diverse. My mum and her side of the family have taught me some elements, and I have visited Jamaica many times from being an infant, so I’ve always been very familiar with my heritage and Caribbean culture, but not black history as such. I’ve only really become familiar with black history as I’ve got older due to films and books. Yes, I do think it should be taught in schools but I’m not sure it’s right to distinguish between black history and general history. It is an important element of history overall and should just be incorporated into the normal curriculum rather than being labelled as ‘black’ history as it’s an unnecessary distinction.