What quality best exemplifies humanity’s strength? Is it the wealth? Or perhaps the resiliency? I argue that it is our differences that make us strong. Collaboration through variation and different perspectives shapes our understanding of the world around us. When someone cannot find the answer to a problem, oftentimes a different point of view offers the answer. So why do we aggressively persecute those different from us? Why do we push others down instead of lifting each other up? The former is what happens with systemic racism, which is highly prevalent in the workplace.

According to recent Canadian studies conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in 2019, as many as one half of people of colour have experienced racial discrimination. Of those, 40% of them say that it has happened in the workplace. Just think on how many millions of instances that amounts to, whether that be black people, indigenous peoples, or other visible minorities. Now, you may be thinking, “well I have never noticed racism”. The reason this may be the case is that occurrences are often not taken seriously by employers, and victims may also fear repercussions for their disclosure. Some victims of racism have lost their jobs for speaking out. Additionally, acts of racism may be difficult to quell if they are subtle, as is the case with microaggressions. Microaggressions refer to comments or actions that have an underlying meaning and malicious intent but may not be blatantly obvious to onlookers. For example, asking a visible minority where they are from before even asking their name. Inquiries like this imply that a country like Canada cannot possibly be their birthplace simply because of their skin colour or religion. Furthermore, the perpetrator may be ignorant to their own racism in general.

Systemic racism is the root of this behaviour because it reinforces that being white is superior and being coloured is inferior. For example, past studies have shown that colour people earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by a white person. I will save the depths of this topic for a future post, but the point remains. How does a person’s skin colour indicate that they are less intelligent or weaker than someone else? This also has translated into reduced promotions and growth opportunities for people of colour within a corporation. So, it is no wonder that visible minorities feel intimidated and unwelcome in environments where the rules are stacked against them, which can have tremendous negative impacts on their mental health and self-esteem.

So, what can we do? 

We can start with creating policies to eradicate racism within companies, but this must also be accompanied by education. Without education, ignorant parties can remain ignorant and continue to push stereotypes. Policies would only be a nuisance to them because they would not completely appreciate and empathize with the discriminated parties. Next, believe the victims of racism and support them. This starts at the hierarchal peak and must filter down to be effective. Employers should allow open discussion regarding religious symbols, holidays, traditional garb, and facial hair with those parties to understand and accommodate their needs for a fulfilling workplace. The reward is a truly strong society where our differences are celebrated and appreciated for the wonders they are.

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