When you consider that nearly half of all black Americans have experienced racism at work, learning how to deal with racism is important for any business owner. Even the most intersectional and inclusive workplace will deal with conflicts of experience and backgrounds. The art is in knowing how to reconcile the situation without making it worse.
Here are 4 things you should do when you encounter racism at work or with other employees.
1. Don't Engage
If you've experienced racism in the workplace, you're going to have a hard time reporting the incident if you're upset. When the incident happens, start going in slow motion so that you can recall all of the details.
Lots of these incidents have been resolved in recent years by holding people accountable with evidence. If something was written down, take a photo of it and email it to yourself. If a guest, client, or fellow employee is being out of control, you might want to take video to give to the HR department.
While it's hard to be unemotional about racism, try to keep your cool. If you're dealing with people who don't experience racism at the executive or HR level, you'll experience tone policing. While you are entitled to your anger, know that people will use it against you to try to say that you might have deserved the racism.
2. Make Friends
Everyone but cis-hetero white men will experience micro and macroaggressions at the workplace at some point. Knowing who to talk to is part of the struggle.
Ask the people who you share an identity with if they've also experienced prejudice from the person you're experiencing issues with. A single voice in a large organization can get lost, especially if the racist is your superior.
Business is all about relationships and there's strength in numbers.
3. Someone Wants Your Business and Talents
If you're dealing with racism from someone who is more powerful or influential than you are, don't brush it off. Just because they're more advanced in their career than you doesn't mean you deserve their hate.
Black and brown women have to work twice as hard to earn less than their male and white counterparts. When you're brought into a large organization, it's because you've proved yourself so surely an anti-racist company will be able to recognize it if your employer can't.
Inclusiveness looks good on any major organization and smart businesspeople know it.
4. Keep A Lawyer in Your Pocket
If you're living with any kind of marginalized identity, you know that there's always a potential for dealing with prejudice and bigotry. While you climb the ranks, you'll meet lots of lawyers, probably some who share the same identity as you.
No one wants to have to go through the hurdles of filing a lawsuit, but if you're wrongfully terminated for racist or sexist reasons, you should call a lawyer.
First, your employer likely wants to avoid a class action lawsuit. Second, being tagged as a company that doesn't intervene on racism is a PR nightmare.
For better or worse, you can hit them where it hurts.
Knowing How To Deal With Racism is Important
Learning how to deal with racism in the moment is a challenge. It can be surprising and blindside you, even if the remark or action was very subtle.
The most important thing for you is to try to maintain your well-being and ensure that you talk to the right people in your organization.
If you want to learn more about businesses that have navigated the terrain of diversity, check out this list.