Why anti-racism is ongoing in the workplace

Why anti-racism is ongoing in the workplace

Despite systemic racism being historically rooted in all Canadian systems, many Canadians were only introduced to issues of racial inequity for the first time by the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s work in 2020. With this social impetus, there is no better time than the present to start having difficult but necessary conversations about racism in the workplace, particularly because we know that an inclusive workplace can have a strong positive effect on employees of colour’s wellbeing. In July 2020, as organizations began having conversations on racial inequity and implementing diverse policies, Black Canadians’ “mental health scores showed a 0.9-point increase,” demonstrating the importance that this dialogue has on Canadians of colour’s workplace experiences.

Racism is a complicated issue. Sometimes it is tempting for an organization to view it numerically, for instance focus primarily on achieving a certain quota in hiring or offering a certain number of relevant training courses. In reality, diversity is bigger than numbers alone, and should be thought of as an organization-wide policy or approach. With the benefits of having a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace clear, how do employees and employers work to make this a reality through ongoing workplace antiracism? 

Here’s three quick reasons why antiracism should be viewed as a systemic change in your organization, instead of a “quick fix” approach:

Ensuring responsive engagement

Research shows that employers who respond to large-scale, diversity-related current events build positive feedback amongst employees and support stronger relationship-building within the organization. Because responding to these events involves interrogating the organization’s values, culture, and work as a whole, this is not a simple process. It requires ongoing conversations, engagement, and reaffirmation of commitment to antiracism.

Long-term commitment

Diversity and inclusion is not a trend but a long-term approach to creating more equitable societies. In modern work culture, there is a prioritization of individualistic thinking. Asking “how does this impact me?” or “How will this impact my career?” is not only encouraged but applauded. We know from studies on class and social mobility that having a cohesive workplace, where individuals think of the good of the organization in addition to their individual career, results in greater workplace happiness and worker retention. However, this same thought process can be applied to antiracist work: thinking of actions not solely within the frame of the individual, but applied to society as a whole, can help us understand the interconnected nature of antiracism work. Developing this type of greater understanding takes time and consistent effort, by employers, employees, and the organization at-large. Antiracism is a long-term commitment and investment in a better society, and requires a purposeful shift from “me first” to “we first” thinking.

Moving beyond the superficial

True antiracist work is not superficial and is dedicated to total systemic change. Shallow conversations and initiatives will not result in the organizational change needed to achieve real transformation. This type of commitment and catalyst takes time, including redesigning processes, being critical of exclusionary practices, and interrogating one’s own prejudices, preconceptions, and biases. This work is challenging, often uncomfortable, and takes time.

Discrimination, stereotypes, and inequality are insidious and often not immediately visible. Only through a long-term, responsive, and thorough antiracism framework can these patterns be stopped.

For bespoke diversity and equality guidance, contact Canadian Equality Consulting and begin a discussion on how to make your workplace more responsive to the needs of your diverse employees.

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