If you’re in the racial minority at work, in many cases, you might be viewed as the person who wore jeans and a t-shirt to a formal dance. And depending on what location you’re in, chances are that you work within the restricted confines of the racial majority. You may not have thought about it, or maybe you don’t always notice – but your experience and physical presence may be something new to your coworkers.
Your current place of employment may be devoid of political correctness, with few minorities. Ostensibly, you may be a token example of a company policy that has never been implemented, or you help shed light on what many of us are all too familiar with – racism in the workplace.
Because there is no universal way to handle racism at work, we’ve sifted down our advice to the most relevant points you’ll need going forward.
1. Know Your Legal Rights
Understanding what constitutes racism in the workplace is the first step. Unfortunately, racism has been classified as subjective, where intent takes precedence over impact. What may clearly be a racist remark to you, may not resonate with the higher-ups. This is the time to hand over the company handbook to the family member who is a lawyer. Don’t hesitate or wait to do so.
2. Document Everything With Accuracy
Take notes immediately after every incident. Since what you’re saying is true – there will be more than one instance where the perpetrator utters a racist remark – they always repeat themselves – always. Be prepared to articulate your case with clarity, you’ll be asked to repeat them more than once. You may have to prove your case more than the perpetrator has to defend theirs – so be prepared.
And if you feel comfortable enough privately confronting your coworker, then make sure you document when, where, and how the meeting took place.
3. Racism At Work: Stay Calm
If you’ve reached a white-collar work environment, then obviously you know how to physically remain calm, and experiencing racism at work is probably nothing new. But remaining calm is not just about your temperament, it’s about your job performance.
Because of the existence of the privilege, you may want to show your value to the company. But the time you were planning to take off, or calling in sick, may have to be put on hold – we know, it’s not fair – but it may be necessary for the time being.
4. Human Resources Is Not On Your Side
Don’t take this personal – unless the grievance is overtly racist, the HR department isn’t going to take what you say as gospel truth. It’s their job to look out for the best interest of the company – from a legal standpoint – not a moral one.
Here’s the situation: If the HR department is potentially looking at a lawsuit, then the perpetrator will be fired, or heavily reprimanded. Understand that racism in the workplace is not taken as seriously as sexual- harassment – both can be extremely hard to prove.
5. Make sure you’re in a safe space
In the words of Michael Jackson – you’re not alone, we’re here with you. Get in a safe place, not just physically but mentally. The best way to accomplish this is by seeking counsel from someone who may have been in a similar circumstance, trust us, they’re out there.
Getting it off your chest can be therapeutic, don’t always hold it inside. The more people that hear your experiences, the more likely we’re able to prevent it from happening in the future.
We’re professional journalists who proudly advocate for equal rights. We unite those who are marginalized.