All of us are aware and have experienced systemic racism at the workplace. The problem of racism in the workplace is institutionalized. It is a reflection of our larger society: unequal opportunities, unequal access to jobs and facilities. Even if we ourselves don’t hold these prejudices, many people in the corporate world do.
If we want to help open a space for black people and people of color to succeed and thrive in the corporate world — we can not be disingenuous and defensive about equal rights. There is definite need for more awareness and more willingness to fight against racial micro-aggressions, discrimination, implicit biases and to move into meaningful action, speaking out on social issues, and fostering an inclusive environment in the workplace.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation. Employees need to practice mindfulness which helps to respond in a thoughtful manner rather than reacting in an impulsive and biased manner. A lot of the reactions are driven by subconscious mind and are automatic in nature, so mindfulness helps to slow down the process and thereby helps to respond in a more objective and unbiased manner.
Practicing self-reflection and meditation and thereby, taking responsibility for thoughts, feelings and emotions truly helps to become more non-judgmental. Challenge our own assumptions and social conditioning. Have inner power and inner peace to exercise our choice to have compassionate and objective dialogue with people even when there are major differences of opinions and ideology. In general, this helps us to be more peaceful and blissful, as well as, more productive, helpful, and inclusive.
Be knowledgeable about rights and history. We all need to be knowledgeable about the immigration history, struggles, civil rights movement that black people and people of color in general have faced. In order to recognize their unique challenges and disadvantaged position, we need to first educate ourselves. We need to learn about American immigration history, implicit biases and structural racism. We can accomplish this via books, articles, podcasts, courses to make us aware and educated on societal norms, immigration history, structural racism, implicit bias, policies, laws etc.
3. Individual Level Initiatives
Get out of Comfort Zone: Employees have to get out of their comfort zone and speak with people from different ethnic groups/races in company as well as in social networks. Everyone has an immigration story, we can make this part of the introduction story in our on-boarding curriculum. This will help us understand not only their current state, but why they are the way they are. Everyone’s background, history and personal story. It is everyone’s job to speak up on behalf of black and minority groups when their voice isn’t being heard. To speak up in their absence when they see or hear racially disturbing behavior. We all need create an encouraging, supportive and welcoming atmosphere for everyone, especially for employees of color and minority groups.
Be Less Me-Centric. Everyone needs to be an Ally at work. We have to contribute beyond our core projects by joining mainstream conversations, offering mentoring to junior and new employees and ensuring an inclusive environment. We need to donate to the best of our capacity to charities and volunteering events organized by our companies.
Lasting and real change happens when people’s hearts are changed. This is a moment when employees can develop a moral conviction. We are going beyond our self interest and having unconditional support and compassion for fellow black or employees of color.
We do not need to be an activist on the road. However, there is definite need for more awareness and more willingness to fight against racial micro-aggressions, discrimination, implicit biases and to move into meaningful action, speaking out on social issues, and fostering an inclusive environment in the workplace. We can be that ripple of hope to create a ripple effect of respect and encouragement in the entire workplace.
Written by: Mousumi Ghosh