What is a race?
Per Renee Bazile-Jones, senior associate of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion expert says: “it is a social categorization and has no biological bases. Race categories were designed to reinforce the subjugation of Blacks, during a time of slavery. Racism is embedded in media and how we define ourselves as family and the attitudes that we share with each other within the context of families. Religion certainly has embedded racism in terms of differences that make a difference.*”
Racism is based on beliefs that favors certain groups of individuals based on perceived superiority or value over the others. We make these assumptions about people that we encounter in life based on prejudices, beliefs, and stereotypes that we learned from our societies or families. These racial biases are usually generalization toward a group of people and we look at everyone from that group with the same lens. We usually lean toward and favor the group that we belong to, based on our racial identification.
Depending on who you interact and work with, you may be subject to direct or implied, conscious or unconscious racism & it can be at work, in the society or in your family.
What to do about it when you are subject of Racism?
Below are five fundamental approaches to deal with this situation, although depending on your specific circumstances, there are more ways to achieve this goal.
1 – Acknowledge
I know, you didn’t want to hear it, but our human race is flawed and yet to eliminate Racism for good. Acknowledge that there is such a thing as Racism and favoritism toward a group of people based on their color and nationality. The truth is NO society or group of people are immune to it: Asians have stereotypes for non-Asians, Whites have stereotypes for blacks, Blacks have stereotypes for whites, Americans have stereotypes for Mexicans, British have stereotypes of Indians, Indians have stereotypes for Pakistanis, etc. you get the picture!
This does not mean that you have to accept it as an appropriate behavior & it definitely doesn’t make it ok, But knowing that it could happen, helps you get yourself prepared for it.
2 – Be proud of your race
If you disrespect or downplay your own race, nothing will hold others back. You don’t have to always wear your traditional clothes or go around the office displaying and discussing your heritage, but there are subtle ways to show you are comfortable in your skin. For example, if someone asks where you are from, be proud and comfortable in stating the fact with a smile, & make sure to ask the question right back by adding the word ” Originally” at the end.
3 – Don’t jump the gun at small things
Not everyone is trying to be racist, some people may not realize what they said or did was racist. Give them the benefit of the doubt. You should let others know gently and subtly at first. Like if someone makes a rude comment about your first country or your race, you can keep the conversation going but show that you realized that their comment was off.
Look at the person who said the racist comment in the eyes & say something like: ” Whoo! that was racist!” with a smile. I’m sure that 9 out of 10 people, will apologize right away and will be more careful the next time. At this point either continue the conversation or change the subject.
4 – Have the talk
Explain how the situation makes you feel in private & give the person a chance to change their behavior.
One of the first steps of any conflict resolution is conversation. Open and honest conversation helps to set the expectations right and bring everyone on good terms. Make sure that when you are going to have this conversation, go in prepared and focus on your own feelings and keep the “I” approach and avoid any blaming game. Explain your observations and your expectations in clear and understandable way, far from any harsh words or offending comments. The goal is to set the boundaries.
5 – Know your rights.
Knowledge is power. Get ready and educate yourself on the supports provided by your workplace & also through your community. If you work in large companies, some of your support systems are HR, anonymous tip lines, Ombudsman** etc. , however, if you are in working in small to mid-size companies, there are less company-provided support and you have to defend your rights by getting help from private or publicly provided lawyers.
I believe this #5 should be considered in extreme cases and as the last straw and you will be way better off looking for another opportunity elsewhere. This is the case, even if you decide to get matters to a lawyer, I won’t suggest anyone staying in a toxic workplace, & the chances that things changes will be pretty slim at this point.
*Listen to Rene Here.
** Ombudsman website HERE.