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How to Navigate the Challenges of Racism at Work!

Bold on Purpose!

Work place atmosphere is often dominated by silent racial discrimination, something nobody addresses because it’s just been that way for too long. An act of grappling to avoid the difficult conversations and to avoid taking a courageous decision is something that needs to be voiced by leaders for moral reasons. A more level playing field needs to be the foundation of the operating structure.


Measures to combat/prevent racism at work:


•          Accept there’s a problem.

Don’t be hesitant to address the issue. Be vocal and accept the existence of the problem and take a stand and resolve to solve the biases. Remember, indifference only makes matters worse.

•          Create a redressal forum.

People who witnessed or experienced an act of racism must feel comfortable to discuss, validate and process it without judgement. There should be a structural system created to address the issue, which provides psychological safety so that people are comfortable to talk about such experiences.

•          Make people accountable.

Nobody should feel okay with carrying on the misconducts and discriminations. They should be held responsible. Leaders should ensure that all reports of racism are taken seriously. Harsh consequences for those who cross the line will indicate to others that racism won’t be tolerated. It will do justice and provide closure for those who have been affected.

•          Establish Vigil Mechanism.

Many racist incidents go unreported because people lack the confidence to come forward. Staff should also be made aware of the process of anonymously reporting an incident, this will at least help in reporting the issue. Further, the management must be held responsible to solve these grievances in a short span of time to stop the spread of its negative effects and eradicate the existence of racial discrimination.


•          Address the pain points.

Members must be trained to make them better understand their own behaviour in the workplace, as subtle acts of racism are often committed without the offender necessarily realizing that their actions are offensive. The importance of civility needs to be imparted. To start with, best behaviour should be appreciated.  Incivility should be publicly addressed to make the offender realize how it actually feels to be humiliated but this should be carried out gracefully, as our purpose is not to humiliate someone but to help them change for the better. 

The prejudice and stereotypes are too evident to go unnoticed.

The prejudice and stereotypes are too evident to go unnoticed. Example: The Wrong Colour! Who are we as humans to classify which colour skin is superior to the other? Why the white colour is glorified and the black considered to be subordinate in human race. In India, the obsession for “White” skin tone is real. People drooling over a ‘fair’ skin tone is evident in the matrimonial ads. Also, the use and popularity of whitening creams have been there for years, yet no ne takes initiative to voice against such products that advocate colour bias and boycott them. We as humans need to understand that all human beings are equal irrespective of the colour of our skin. No one is superior to the other, we are all born equal, what separates us from each other is not the colour of our skin but the colour of our thoughts and deeds. Make your thoughts and deeds superior in quality and then you will automatically stop downgrading others based on whatever prejudices you carry in your heart and mind. Think about it.

Not only this, but the pandemic also succeeded in unleashing the racist mentality of Indians when they misbehaved with those from the North-eastern states. On 26th March a man was arrested for spitting in the face of a Manipuri woman and calling her ‘Corona’. However, this is not the only incident of racial discrimination that took place, when people from the Northeast faced harassment. Women from the Northeast are often called by various names like ‘Chinky’, Chinese and ‘Nepali’ etc. They are often treated as outsiders. And then, we further hold them responsible for not trying to be a part of the rest of India! Remember, you belong where you feel connected.

The whole George Floyd incident and the Anti-race movement; The ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests gained momentum in not only the United States but the whole world. People, as well as many governments across different countries, came forth against the prevalence of racial discrimination worldwide. But what needs to be considered is that though governments have their parts to play in order to stop such discrimination to take place, yet what will bring real transformation is when people at individual levels start participating in ending this racial discrimination. If we all become responsible and accountable to stand against such injustice it will automatically make it difficult for the abusers to carry out such derogatory acts, isn’t it? Unity has power. Let’s stand for a cause greater than ourselves. Let’s value the life of each individual being. Raise awareness, stop harassment. Voice injustice. Practice ethical behaviour even when its tough. Similarly, there are several such instances where discrimination against people based on colour, race and ethnicity has been seen, yet the cause has not been sufficiently dealt with.


Image Courtesy: EY