Being different in a workplace is difficult, especially if the difference is racial. It takes a lot of courage for anyone to speak against racial injustice at work. To be precise, especially with people of color, African Americans, or the black community per se.
From the United States to India to Malaysia, every country comprises diverse ethnicities who make a beautiful melting pot of culture and diversity. Slavery was abolished long ago, but systemic racism is still at large in many countries.
Despite globalization, it is still surprising that cases of racial injustice at work are rising.
Many people underestimate the extent to which racial inequality exists in the workplace. People get rejected just for being different. Workers lose jobs due to systemic racism. Black men like George Floyd get murdered due to police brutality, leading to the Black Lives Matter movement.
So, as a leader or a manager, what initiatives do you have in place to eliminate workplace discrimination? Do you follow a set diversity and inclusion program? Do you consider the criminal justice system against racial injustice at work?
Well, this article highlights the examples and types of racial injustice at work and how you can call them out in your workplace. But, first, we must know:
What is Considered to be Racial Injustice at Work?
Definition- Racial injustice at work refers to any sort of discrimination or unfavorable treatment to a worker, contractor, or candidate based on their skin color, complexion, hair, facial features, or other racial identities.
As per these laws, your employees are likely to be victims of racial discrimination in the following situations:
- If companies refuse their promotion for no reason
- If they faced workplace harassment
- If they lost their job or were deprived of a job due to their race
- If they suffered discrimination in the workplace due to racial intolerance
Examples of Racial Injustice at Work
From public schools to modern workplaces, racial disparity is everywhere. Also, there is a similarity between ethnic discrimination and racial injustice. In a predominantly white society, black people and other racial minorities, such as Asians and Mexicans, face discrimination.
So, to help you identify such scenarios, here are 10 examples of racial injustice at work.
- Employees making racial jokes
- The portrayal of obscene gestures against a specific racial minority
- Privileged workers telling minorities they only have a job because the law protects them
- Usage of ethnic and racial slurs
- The use of antiquated terms to denote race
- Assuming someone’s racial identity
- Usage of phrases like “your people,” which refers to someone’s race
- Making statements like “the wrong side of the tracks.”
- Asking questions like, “do you identify as black American or just black?”
- Homogenizing people and asking questions like “are you Chinese?” or, “Are you Latino?”
In addition to this, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says, racial injustice at work also includes:
- Color discrimination
- Reverse discrimination
- Same-race discrimination
- Intersectional discrimination
- Association discrimination
- Biracial discrimination
Workers may become victims of racial injustice in many ways. If you suspect someone is a victim, make sure you contact a racial discrimination attorney to help your workers take the necessary steps.
8 Ways to Call Out Racial Injustice at Work
It is differences that bring a company together. These nuances help companies to become diverse and inclusive creating workplace equity.
If gender equality in the workplace is imperative for business growth, so is racial equality. Creating a discrimination-free work environment fosters employee engagement. As a whole, it enhances employee retention and job satisfaction.
So, here are 8 ways to call out racial injustice at work to help you create an equal and inclusive work culture.
1. Recognize your Privileges
As a leader, you must learn to recognize and understand your privilege. Racial privilege is prevalent in social, political, economic, and cultural environments.
Identifying your privilege and using it to break systemic racism are two significant ways to fight racial injustice.
In addition, race is just another aspect of privilege. Other things that affect your privilege include religion, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, language, citizenship, etc.
What matters is understanding your privileges and collectively using them to empower others who need support.
2. Identify your Biases
As a kid, what did you hear about people different from you from your elders and neighbors? What was the predominant racial identity in your neighborhood? Did you study in a school that supported inclusivity and no racial discrimination?
We ask these questions because these experiences produce bias, stereotypes, and prejudices, leading to discrimination.
To ensure equality for every worker irrespective of their racial identity, we must identify and examine our biases.
Racial discrimination is a social construct, and we must call out this evil by fighting our biases. Well, most of these biases are a result of conditioning we go through since our childhood.
We grow up with a particular mindset to make fun of people or treat someone differently who fall under racial minority. Hence, we must keep the condition aside when we come to work and get away with our biases.
By doing so, we can assure support to our workers who might face racial injustice at work.
Recommended Resource: How To Outsmart Unconscious Bias In Recruitment
3. Show Support towards Experiences and Feelings of People of Color
Apart from addressing your biases and understanding your privileges, the third way to call out racism is by supporting people of color.
As a leader, you must hear their experiences and engage in internal communication about race and injustice.
Keep in mind; you mustn't get scared to talk about discrimination and oppression because you fear you might “get it wrong.”
You must take action, but before that, you must learn about the ways racism is affecting our society. To help you get started, we are listing a few documentaries, movies, and books. Take a look:
- 13th (documentary)
- The Color Purple (Movie)
- Americanah (Book)
- Hidden Figures (Book and Movie)
As social beings, we witness domestic violence by listening to victims of domestic violence. Similarly, the best way to understand racial injustice at work is to listen to people of color talk about their experiences.
4. Challenge the “Colorblind” Ideology
We live in a post-modern, ”post-racial” society where we avoid seeing “color.” But let’s be honest, it is just a myth.
According to a study, conserving a “colorblind” ideology adds to increased and unknowing racism.
Let’s take the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When he told about his hope for living in a colorblind society. He never intended to ignore race as a whole. To eliminate racism, we must first learn to acknowledge every race.
Practicing “colorblind” ideology eliminates a person’s identity and hides the real injustice they face due to their race. Hence, we must see color, make it evident, and be vocal. And this way, we can create equity and equality for all.
5. Publicly Call Out Racist Jokes
As a leader, you must make it clear to every worker, “racist jokes are not okay.” You must make your employees feel safe working with you and their colleagues. They are not subjected to any sort of racism. And taking action against racist jokes is the first step.
You might come across introverted workers who are not confrontational. Here you need to act as a friend. Encourage them to talk more and bring any discomfort to your notice.
Also, if you hear someone making a racist joke on a worker, you can call them out. For example, you can ask questions like- “Hey, that joke did not make any sense, could you explain it to us?”
Assure your diverse employees that they should not be afraid to talk to loved ones, peers, or mentors.
Also, microaggression at work can attract racist jokes, which encourages biases and prejudices. Keep in mind that ignoring them or not taking action against such jokes implies you support them. So, be mindful and attentive to such discriminatory scenarios.
6. Expand more Opportunities for Racial Minorities.
Remember, systemic racism is a sign of barriers like wealth disparity, criminal justice bias, education, and housing discrimination—all of these pile up against people of color in the workplace or at school.
According to a report by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), in 2014, a 12-year-old girl got expelled from school and rubbed with criminal charges for merely writing “hi” on the locker room wall.
This gave birth to their campaign #BlackGirlsMatter, which addresses the police brutality and under-protection of black girls in education and working society.
Thus, companies need to expand their opportunities for every individual irrespective of their color, race, gender, sexuality, and other differences.
Consider hiring people looking at their skills and not by their racial background. By doing so, you can eradicate racial injustice at work and create a great company culture.
7. Be thoughtful with your Finances and Budget.
Do not just lavishly spend your budget on team parties and annual events only. Rather take a look at your company funds and consider donating to worthy causes.
You must know about the companies in-and-out before investing with them. You never know; they might turn out to be conservative and racist. Invest more in charities and make donations.
Support small businesses run by people of color or racial minorities. Give your money back to the people living in the community. You can easily get a list of minority-owned businesses in your area from the state directory. Make a note, and start supporting!
8. Intersectionality over Selectivity
Get away from selective support! Right now. Just because we are talking about racial injustice at work does not mean you don’t support other minorities.
Remember, every form of oppression has a connection to each other. You cannot fight against one of discrimination and choose not to fight against others.
If you’re calling out racism, you must also call out homophobia, transphobia, gender inequality, sexual harassment, etc.
People are sometimes double and triple marginalized. They can be black, a woman, and queer. This makes them more vulnerable and prone to discrimination.
You must recognize every individual as themselves and fight for every inequality they suffer. We must support every survivor's unique experiences.
Racism and racial injustice will prevail, but we can make a safe, diverse, and equal workspace with our efforts.
You just had a look at the 8 ways to call out racial injustice at work, along with its 10 examples. Next time, remember to implement these steps whenever you come across a discriminatory situation at your workplace.
On that note- Say no to racism and yes to equality!