How to respond to racism in the workplace

posted on December 1, 2020

November 25, 2020


The Black Lives Matter movement, and how it has been received by politicians, as well as several recent high-profile cases concerning deep rooted racial bias, have put anti-racism and diversity training at the forefront of employers’ minds.

Responding to racism in the workplace and developing a strategy to combat it is a complex task that forces employers and HR teams to consider multiple different issues. This includes current workplace culture and organizational policies and practices, and systems that may inadvertently support racial bias.

Development of anti-racism strategies begins with a paradigm shift. Decision-makers likely have to unlearn some of the beliefs they may hold about race, anti-Black racism and anti-racism change.

Organizations need to unlearn the definition of racism as discrete individual acts of bigotry. Leaders need to understand the systemic nature of racism. Systemic racism is not attributed directly to the actions of specific individuals. Rather, it arises from policies, procedures, practices and conduct which may not be discriminatory in their intent but which adversely impact Black and racialized individuals or groups.

The result is that Black and racialized individuals and groups are less likely to be hired and promoted for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability. These groups are also more likely to be excluded from decision-making roles and to experience harassment in the workplace.

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