Tabi on racial matters: Let’s do better in normalising the talk about what racism is; through acceptance, knowledge and attitudes

| February 22, 2021

The recent revelation that the Collingwood Football Club is ridden with structural racism should not be so surprising. I will go further to say that many institutions including schools, major sporting clubs, health care organisations and large businesses, unless they have specifically made it their goal to weed out racial injustices of the past will enable racism.

From my own experience as a Black woman, I have had ongoing racism in many forms in all places and organisations.

Organisations that seek to make lasting business decisions to address racism, will find it beneficial to engage those on the receiving end by listening, hearing and acting to bring about positive transformative changes.

Everyday racism is real, please don’t minimise it

Many Black folks suffer racial assaults on a daily basis, this is well documented.

What we are asking is not to take personal responsibility of the wrongs of our ancestors, we are asking people to educate themselves in racial literacy to undo the systems that were created to oppress Blacks for hundreds of years.

We are not sitting idle and asking others to fix the problems that were created, but rather, we want to partner with all peoples so that together we can do the challenging work to bring about the change needed.

Black folks endeavour every day to be given the opportunity to live in a world free from racism. This right to live free of racism, we see as an ultimate goal for us and our children. However, it is a prospect that many Black folks can still only dream of.


Racism’s impact on Black folks is frightening

To minimise and disregard recipients of the frightening assaults of racism, is what contributes to the further harming, killings and destroying of Black lives. These impacts, studies have found, can leave scars on the racialised for life.

I don’t usually rant on racism specific incidents but for the purposes of aiding understanding I will share this anecdote. A white male participant at a work team building exercise (many years ago) on the topic of “teamwork and belonging” commented at the top of his voice during the workshop, directed at migrants and Black folks in the room, “you just need to lighten up a little and don’t be so sensitive, it’s mostly a joke just build a tougher skin”.

As a young graduate at the workshop, I remember being so shocked that a grown, powerful white male could say such a thing openly. I was traumatised and eventually withdrew from all discussions. I became self-conscious and did not feel safe to share my ideas on how to build a team or belonging.

The ideas I had written down to contribute stayed with me and the team didn’t get to hear them. The team missed out on my contribution and the event also marked me for a long time in other meetings to follow.

For one joke, yes sure!! But when you multiply it by tens or hundreds of Black folks encountering racial jokes daily, at all levels, at any time and at any place, would you be able to easily “lighten up”? It can be compared to a bullying torment that has no end.

If you are racialized in this world, you will be treated with ongoing suspicion and scorn; society systems are not created with Blacks in mind. From my experience, racism on the street, however, can never be compared in the severity of its impact when is it uttered in a professional work environment.

The recent Collingwood structural racism case resulted the Club President losing his job, and this was big news. But what about the players whose careers have been affected or shortened because of the racial actions or the failure of the leadership team to take appropriate actions. Many of these players don’t have the ability to walk into another job, it doesn’t just destroy their career but their whole livelihood.

So, if you feel that those in power are hard done by in being held accountable for racial incidents, also consider that they had the power to implement the systems to prevent or manage the behaviour in the first place, and many displaced managers can walk into another well-paid job.

Help dismantle racism in society

I want to commend the Collingwood FC club for engaging specialists who experienced in race and racism to guide the organisation into a new beginning, that bit of the story needs to be celebrated!! I also call it hope in action.

Racism when it is called out in an organisation should not just be dealt with by a Human Resources Department like any bullying or harassment complaint. Thankfully, in the Collingwood FC case, engaging specially trained experts on racial literacy proved the best way to uncover the complexities of how racism is embedded in the organisation.

Experts can lead ways to expose the systemic racism that exists, where commonly investigators without racial literacy skills will probably miss the key signs. Where does this leave the complainant? Probably feeling dejected and without a voice to tell the truth.

The long-term impact on the organisation, however, can be crippling. Those who chose not to conduct a proper investigation may eventually find themselves on the receiving end of a public outcry or media scrutiny when a complainant decides to continue the fight and expose the organisations failings.

By virtue of the way society is constructed, those whom racism experience is not their daily existence, may find it difficult to understand fully what racism is, without firstly taking the responsibility to learn the nuances of how it can occur and the willingness to listen to those on the receiving end as to how racism manifest.

The capacity to listen, hear and investigate when Black folks gather the courage to detail instances of racial abuse in your establishment is like gold and must be treated so. This is because if Black folks don’t care about the organisation, they are simply likely to leave. The organisation misses out learning from their errors. To have the racialised stay and talk about their painful experiences can assist to bring about lasting change.

All of your experiences of racism matter, so please voice them here for a listening ear.

Help dismantle racism starting now: –

• Engage those who bear the brunt of racism on a daily basis;

• Appoint experts in racial literacy and work with them to guide your processes;

• Be an ally and provide safe spaces for the racialised to Speak up and share their experiences to aid understanding;

• Make racial bullying at work a health and safety hazard and create processes to deal with the hazard effectively so that they don’t continue;

• Advocate to change policies and reform current laws to help the victims, not protect the perpetrators;

• Provide frameworks and legal support for the victim and establish community base support networks.

21st century workplaces are being revolutionised. Younger generations who are the future of businesses are now demanding not just a linear career path but also a work environment that is embedded with equality, diversity, inclusion and safety.

Any organisation that fails to cultivate a safer, inclusive and diverse workplace and cover up abuse incidents will eventually face the real consequences.