(Image: Unsplash/Clay Banks)

What can you do to promote an anti-racist workplace?

You might think you’re the most woke person in your workplace. Workplaces, remember those? Neither do I. Let’s rephrase that because we’re now living in an era of working from home. 

You might think you’re the most woke colleague on your team. You’re not a racist — well done you. But it’s time to go further than posting black squares on Instagram and declaring your ability to not be racist online. It’s time to make a concerted effort to promote anti-racism at work too.

It’s time to channel your motivation from the current Black Lives Movement to all aspects of your life, and the “workplace” is no different. 

According to an SBS and Western Sydney University survey, 32% of Australians have experienced racism within their workplace, and racial attacks have increased in Australia since the coronavirus pandemic started.

Here are seven ways to promote an anti-racist workplace: 

  1. Take a look at your team
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk about racism
  3. Ask your higher-ups about what they’re doing to promote equality
  4. Learn how to pronounce your colleague’s names
  5. Consider whether you are “micro-aggressive”
  6. Ask your colleagues about their experiences
  7. Hold yourself accountable to continue to promote an anti-racist workplace

Take a look at your team 

Take a look at your team. What do you see? If there are few or no people of colour in your workplace or on the board of your company, you need to start asking yourself why — and then ask management why too.

Don’t be afraid to talk about racism 

It might feel uncomfortable to talk about racism, but do you know what’s more uncomfortable? Avoiding the elephant in the room.

Speak up, ask your colleagues how they are feeling about the current movement, and how are they feeling in general. Is there anything you can do to support them during this time? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it must feel like to read, watch and listen to the news right now. 

Ask your higher-ups about what they’re doing to promote equality 

If your boss thinks less of you for asking the important questions, you probably need a new boss. Ask your higher-ups what they’re doing to promote equality and inclusivity across the team. Ask them about pay, ask them about diversity workshops, ask them if the company cares.

The more people who put pressure on now, the better for everyone. By staying quiet, you are supporting white supremacy. 

Learn how to pronounce your colleague’s names

Learning how to pronounce your colleague’s names is so simple yet so powerful. It’s also so annoying for anyone, no matter where they’re from, to hear their name being mispronounced day in, day out. If you don’t know how to say it, just ask, and remember it. Practice if you need to, but don’t avoid using their name and don’t joke that it’s too hard to pronounce so you won’t bother. That’s a micro-aggression.

On the topic of micro-aggressions …

Consider whether you are “micro-aggressive”

A micro-aggression is a statement, action, or incident that is in fact an indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group, such as a racial or ethnic minority.

Examples of a micro-aggression include commenting that your co-worker has really good English, or is ‘soooo articulate’. A micro-aggression is asking the girl with the afro if you can touch her hair, it’s clutching your belongings when you see a person of colour; it’s looking past a minority when they’re speaking to you; it’s expecting the big boss to be white. Don’t comment, don’t touch and adjust your expectations, now. 

Ask your colleagues about their experiences

If you have a relationship with a colleague in which it feels appropriate to ask them about their experiences at work, ask them. The majority of the time, the minority is less likely to speak up about racial incidents at work for fear of being let go.

Ask colleagues about their experiences at work and outside of work. Not only will it help you to realise that racism is a very real issue, it will also give you the opportunity to be an ally and speak up for that colleague if they have been having a negative experience. 

Hold yourself accountable to continue to promote an anti-racist workplace

It’s time to audit our outlook. There is always work to be done in the white mental schema, whether you think it or not.

Take a look at your own conscious or unconscious biases. Think about times when you could have done better. Keep track of what’s happening around you and commit to holding yourself accountable for creating a better anti-racist workplace.

Read: Racism in Australia| Where does Australia rank in the world for racism?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey