Tabi on Racial Matters: Are Black and marginalised employees supported by diversity and inclusion policies?

| December 31, 2020

Discrimination maintained through racism is understood to be a disease comparable to a pandemic.

Let’s not forget, racism is weathering and slowly killing many Blacks around the Globe.

Everyday racism with its debilitating impacts continues to go on without notice but not for those whose health is impacted.

Unless racial justice and equality is addressed specifically along with Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) policies, then the ultimate function of D&I to support the marginalised will not suffice.

The discourse around D&I policies in workplaces is a step in the right direction, but such efforts may just fulfil the organisation’s social responsibility without necessarily making a dent in the way in which Black employees are supported at all levels of the organisation.

We need to be vigilant and rid ourselves from simple tick-a-box-systems as a way of fulfilling D&I agendas, these routine practices are unsupportive for the marginalised. To genuinely tackle justice issues with D&I interventions could provide transformative results for staff on the margin.

What’s missing with the current D&I workplace policies?

Anti-racism agendas seem to be left out of the D&I agendas, in favour of broad, superficial and unhelpful initiatives. If true diversity, equality and inclusion is the goal, then why is it that anti-racism is not part of the initiatives which is supposed to look out for the Blacks and people of Colour?

For organisations to say they comply with D&I agendas but turn a blind eye to marginalised oppression caused by injustices and exclusion give ongoing endorsement to systematic racism. So clear anti-racist programs are to be squarely placed within D&I programs.

Likewise lived experiences of discrimination, racism and exclusion faced by Blacks and marginalised employees should be compiled to inform D&I initiatives. Failure to seek such valuable knowledge could contravene the very aims of D&I in any organisation.

To simply do diverse recruitment to create a visual kaleidoscope of people and to stage poses for PR exercise is not a sign that the organisation is inclusive just because of the variety of colours on brochures when senior staff are still all mono cultural identities.

Will discrimination and exclusion disappear just by including Black staff without a social justice and equality agendas in place?

To be true to racial equity is the capacity to make systematic changes in the workplace so that different cultural identities become an asset to the organisation in the way in which marginalised staff are encouraged, supported and represented at all levels.

Another sure sign is when the marginalised groups are proud to showcase themselves in media and align themselves with the organisational ethos on D&I.

When the organisation makes cultural differences, its assets have the capability to support these identities, cultures, and ethnicities then it is truly inclusive to be felt by those on the margin themselves.

Racial equity is not just about changing an individual behaviour but rather it is the engagement in anti-racism agendas that involves culture as well as structural change. This is what dismantles systematic inequalities and allows Black and marginalised staff to thrive.

As we understand systemic racism to be based on a person’s skin colour and identity and the damage it has on everyone else can be just as harmful because it limits all of our worth.

Different cultural identities in staffing and the management’s genuine desire to be aware of these identities and their place within the organisation through support and training will aid progressive D&I initiatives because it appreciates staff differences.

As a Black woman with daily experiences of racism in the workplace, our current D&I policies minimise the marginalised group’s experiences and further reinforce exclusionary practices it is trying to address.

Issues faced by the marginalised

For centuries Black people and the marginalised groups have faced barriers to employment, and they still do.

The brutal killing of a Black man, George Floyd, on the streets in the United States made the world stand up and condemned racism. Large global public protests during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic risked people’s lives and their health in solidarity with the Black race and chanted, “Black Lives Matter”.

Unlike Black deaths which are often paraded on our TV screens unavoidably, discrimination perpetrated through racism in workplaces is no different to violent racial scenes on our TV because it is just as harmful to Black staff, it makes us ill and is also killing us.

Many careers of Blacks and marginalised staff have been dashed by microaggressions in put downs, name calling and unfair treatment most of which are subtle in nature but for the racialised it is like a relentless bullying that has no end.

What makes a truly inclusive Workplace?

Workplaces that adopt the concept of the Justice, Equality, Diversity and Inclusive approach (“JEDI” approach) will truly be inclusive as it will tackle social justice issues along with increase diversity and the capability to maintain their inclusion.

If children of Black and marginalised staff can experience racism at any age, then all employees, can also learn about why marginalisation exist through research, training and education.

Targeted conversations must include those who are on the receiving end of marginalisation, to help to tease out which processes and systems require change whilst identifying any past failings efforts so that solutions can be curated to be best fit for purpose.

D&I initiatives that just add a Person of Colour in a team misses the point of the overarching purpose of real inclusion of the marginalised.

Tokenism in an attempt to appear to be inclusive only highlights the discriminatory practices that D&I is trying to curtail.

A truly diverse and inclusive workplace will fundamentally challenge rigid processes that don’t serve the marginalised.

In the long-term, it must be about making tangible, structural changes to embed inclusive practices for those who are supposed to benefit from D&I.

The root cause of why racism continues to permeate in our workplaces is due to our colonialism past and today’s migration. Awareness of the past will also inform our actions for the future.

Let’s tackle justice and equality problems first and diversity, equity and inclusion will resolve itself to make workplaces safe for everyone.

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2 Comments

  1. Alan Stevenson

    Alan Stevenson

    December 31, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Racism is not an epidemic, it’s something we absorb into our being as we grow up. The world is divided into ‘them’ and ‘us’. Studies, mainly in the United States have shown that it is relatively easy to get people to form into groups along very simple lines – blue eyes and brown eyes; white and coloured; liberal and conservative; sports teams supporters; rich and poor.

    We tend to understand the ‘us’ people and sometimes find it very difficult to understand the ‘them’ folk. Studies at Stamford University have shown that in many instances ‘liberals’ cannot understand the arguments put forward by the ‘democrats’ and vice versa. If the politicians in a country where education is praised so much cannot understand each other, what chance have the average folk got?

    The only way we can overcome racism is to introduce our children to different coloured people, different religions, different racial concepts at an early age.

    During this year of family upheaval and change, children from Darwin have been forced to enter schools in NSW where they have, for the first time encountered an all white student population and they have found this a difficult lifestyle change.

    I am a ten pound Pom. When we came to Perth I went to a school where we were taught that the only good thing about aboriginals is that they bred out. One day an aboriginal man came to the school and sat near the main entrance. He smiled and made beckoning gestures to the students who basically ignored him He seemed ordinary enough but, like the others, I also ignored him.

    We learned later he was Albert Namatjira and I have regretted that incidence ever since. He seemed a man who wanted friendship. However, I was guided by the others. We all are to a greater or lesser extent.

    Racism is learned. We must teach our children if we are to survive in a well travelled multi-national world where many people are now homeless, stateless refugees.

    • GloriaD

      January 4, 2021 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks for your analysis, Alan. I have learned few things from your story regarding Albert Namatjira by noticing more. Like that story and racism, listening intently and asking questions and the willingness to hear (pleasant and the unpleasant) understanding also emerges.