The past months has been extremely difficult for Black men and women. This hold true because as the entire world was dealing with the pains of COVID 19, the Black community was, yet again, reminded that we have no recess from our daily dose of discrimination.
For those outside the Black community, the racist and dehumanizing activities may seem new, but as a Black person I can assure you it is not. The truth is the world and its activities slowed down long enough to force those outside our community to have a glimpse into what our reality is on the daily. That seemingly normal activities as:
· running in your own neighborhood in the middle of the day is enough to have you hunted and killed https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52623151, or
· kindly asking non-racialized person to adhere to park rules by leashing their dog is enough to get you reported to the police and possibly put your life in jeopardy https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/26/us/central-park-video-dog-video-african-american-trnd/index.html, and
· regardless of the circumstances with which there is a police encounter, there exist a thin line between walking away with a mere warning or being violently attacked or killed. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52861726
And whilst there are many things to be unpacked from these events, as a Human Resource Professional I want to speak to the effects and implications of unchecked biases and its implications for racialized individuals and the workplace at large.
Firstly, as an employer, it is important to recognize that your staff has their own biases which the company inherits upon recruitment. Not acknowledging this and not preparing for such biases, you, as an employer, are possibly creating an environment where racialized individuals may be subjected to unfair treatment. These individual biases are further exacerbated when met with systemic biases and ignorance inevitably creating a toxic work culture where racialized individuals are continuously disadvantaged.
Unchecked biases, conscious or unconscious, are damaging. The damages are particularly amplified when the perpetrators are in leadership or positions of authority. Will they exercise fairness? Objectivity? It is hard to assume that these leaders’ and their decisions will not be influenced by their biased views whether when recruiting, conducting performance evaluation, assigning tasks and rewards.
Leaders who weaponize their biases in the workplace, is a reminder to racialized individuals that they have to work “x” times harder than their non-racialized counterparts to qualify for a promotion, an opportunity and a raise. And even more devasting is knowing that even then it still may be out of their reach because of their skin colour.
When the individuals and systems within an organization are intrinsically biased, how can racialized groups place trust and confidence in said systems? How then can you, as an employer, expect these individuals to be engaging, motivated and productive when the gatekeepers of their careers are unapologetically biased?
Biasness compromises the rewards system in the workplace. It prevents management from identifying, promoting and developing rising stars, and deprived the organization of the best available pool of talent. Talent which could assert their competitiveness. Consequently, it is not onerous to demand that the companies, within which racialized individuals work to create profit, exercise a zero tolerance for racial bias. Not only is it the smart thing to do, it’s right to thing to do.
About the Author:
About the Author:
Tenesia Benjamin is Senior Human Resource Researcher & Content Developer to the HRprimed Team. Her expertise is rooted in organizational behaviour and change management. As a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, Tenesia has co-developed and led workshops with inter-cultural stakeholders throughout East Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, delivering training to staff, management, government on leadership and communication. Most recently her work has focused on developing and facilitating training, specifically in workplace conflict, wellness, strategic change initiative and organizational behaviour, group dynamics and change.