People all around the world experience discrimination in their everyday lives, whether they experience it firsthand, or see it happening. Whatever the case, people need to know how to react, or in some cases, fight back. Sadly, the most commonly known forms of discrimination in the workplace are sexism and racism.
Racial discrimination can happen even without the victim, or even the abuser noticing it. Sadly this form of discrimination is so common, that people don’t even notice the most “lightweight” forms of it.
Forms of Racism
The first type of racial discrimination is individual racism. This entails an individual’s racist assumptions, and prejudice, and is enforced and intensified by systemic racism, which is the second form of everyday racism.
Systemic racism includes policies and practices introduced in established institutions and companies. These policies as a result exclude designated groups from certain things. Systemic racism can be seen in hiring procedures, exclusion from promotions or education, and even from recreational activities.
The latter is the most often recognized problem in a workplace environment, but this doesn’t mean that individual racism isn’t present. In fact, the existence of systematic racism justifies the need for individual racism, especially if people in the institution know, and are proud of the existence of racial discrimination in professional matters.
Build Yourself Up and Spread Anti-Racism Through Your Behavior
Racism and the everyday actions it entails are embedded deep into the more privileged people among us. For the most part, this is not their fault, but they can act upon it and reflect on their behaviour. If you’re a person of a higher power in the workplace, or if you have any authority over the main policies of the office, you can motivate those around you to make a difference and create equality whether it’s through the hiring process or segregation.
Finding allies is an important step in every new workplace or even areas of living. But in cases of active racial discrimination, finding allies is important for keeping your sanity, and keeping the seriousness of the problem in check. And if later you need to speak up, it’s better to have more people standing behind your word, than you alone.
Colleagues and friends can help each other see a pattern, or realize the problem itself if it wasn’t obvious until then. It’s also important to check on each other, because a lot of the time, there’s no way out, and you need a support system to get through the harder days.
Point It Out
As mentioned before, sometimes even the abuser doesn’t realize his or her actions. So before speaking up, or taking action, it’s important to let these people know what their actions are doing. Just like sexual harassment seminars, office environments have to have a discrimination seminar that draws lines between what’s “funny”, and what’s abusive. But if these steps aren’t actively taken by your workplace, and acts of discrimination are actively happening, it’s very important to talk to the person doing it, and tell them that their actions make you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or just plain inhuman.
HR is there for a reason, and this is exactly it. And while the first step can be talking to the abuser themselves, HR doesn’t have to be the last resort. A problem like this can and should be brought to their attention whether or not you’re planning to talk to the person causing it.
And if you’ve already talked to said person, and he or she is still continuously discriminating against you, or anyone else, the case must be brought to HR’s attention immediately. This is when the allies can come to the rescue, as higher authorities in or outside of the workplace are much less likely to say no to a group of people – and assets to the company – stating the same continuous problems.
Speaking up is an overwhelming and hard process. Whether it’s taking it to the person discriminating, HR, or a board in the office, it takes a lot of bravery and planning to be able to stand up for yourself. More often than not, the abuser can feel at fault, because sadly a lot of toxic workplaces can have people believe that it’s their sensitivity that caused the problem, when in fact it was an abusive situation.
But after a line has been crossed, people need to start researching and gathering allies to stand up for themselves and against this ongoing problem, and they have to have the strength to adapt to the consequences. Chances are, that if you present a solution to the problem, people of higher power will more likely listen, than to an “empty” complaint. These solutions can be changing policies, arranging seminars, or anything you think can change this behaviour.
Discrimination of any form is most likely present in every company. It can be sexism, racism, homophobia, but it’s the responsibility of the discriminated person to stand up for themselves, as the less primitive party in this situation. This has to involve smart planning and a come-what-may attitude. At the end of the day, always remember, that this is a job, and if you stay professional, and prove to be an asset while representing all you are with pride, people will most likely respond with respect. Even if it means reminding them of these toxic traits every now and again.