How To Tackle Racism At Your Student Or Entry Level Job


A few weeks ago, I had a job interview and, despite the fact that the interview went well, I received absolutely no post-interview response.

This may simply be due to the fact that, as a student, I have minimal prior work experience, but I also couldn’t let go of the fact that I have never seen anyone in this type of role who wears a hijab (a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women) like myself and I felt offended by this potentially racist incident.

Racism is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior or superior.

While racism was a big problem in the past, it still continues to be a problem even today – it just may not be as overt as it was decades ago.

In the workplace, it can be difficult to discuss the subject of racism, whether you’re an employee or a manager. However, it’s important to tackle this issue head on if it arises, because it will only get worse and hurt more people if the problem is not dealt with.

While it is the management’s  responsibility to immediately correct any incidents of racism that occur within the organization, as an employee, you also have a responsibility to report any incidents of racism you witness or are subjected to, and to speak out on behalf of fellow employees who are victims of racism.

Here are some steps you can take as an employee to combat racism:

Step 1: Educate yourself

Know your company’s polices pertaining to racism and discrimination in the workplace, and make sure your own behaviour is in accordance with all company guidelines. If you are unsure whether something counts as racism or not, talk to your supervisor or refrain from the act altogether.

Step 2: Record what happened

Document and substantiate any and all incidents of racism that happen to you in the workplace or that you witness. It is helpful to jot down names of all persons involved, dates, times and detailed descriptions of what was said by whom and what happened.

If you actually have tangible proof, make sure you hold on to it in a safe place. In case you ever quit or are terminated, do not record this information on your work computer.

Step 3: Tell someone

Report each racist incident to your supervisor, human resources department (if it is an incident related to HR practices and policies) or employment union as soon as possible. Even if corrective action is not taken, at least the proper parties will be informed that there might be a problem and they will likely investigate further.

Also, talk about the incidents with someone you trust, especially if they have gone through something similar, as this can help you cope through an otherwise difficult emotional process.

Step 4: Take it to the next level

File formal complaints via whatever system is available in your workplace or union. If need be, consult a lawyer who specializes in discrimination cases and provide your lawyer with all of your documentation and evidence of the racist incidents that have occurred.

Have you ever experienced racism at work? How did you handle it?

Photo credit: antonia