Dear workplace Ally... from your Black colleague, on 'Racism Lite'

Monday, June 01, 2020

Forgive that I break out of my normal ‘professional' posture in this message; that I am not cracking you up with my usual humour-filled anecdotes. But there is nothing normal about the world around us; nothing funny about the week just passed.

We all watched the culmination of man's inhumanity to man, in the casual snuffing of George Floyd's life.

In our lifetime, we have all been witnesses to the actualisation of anti-black racism.

It hurts.

It hurts that people have to question the longevity of their days, based on the colour of their skin.

And while we may not have this particular brand of racial discrimination in our immediate community, often, it breathes boldly in other forms.

Racial Profiling.

Systemic Oppression.

Deliberate and sustained segregation.

Anti-immigrant posturing.

(Unwritten) Non-inclusive recruitment and promotion policies.

Unwarranted phobia for black people.

For years, we danced around it. We wore Eurocentric weaves. Changed our hair. Changed our accents. Switched native first names with 'mainstream' middle or nicknames.

To make others around us more comfortable. Be more "professional".

Smiled through macro and micro aggressions. So as not to fit the narrative of "the angry, black..."

We are exhausted.

It is not daylight lynching per se. It is far, far more subliminal, but much more potent. Ensuring the (invisible) ceiling stays fast in place, and the racial divide untouched.

Call it 'Racism Lite' if you may. But it culminates eventually, into the rabid monster the world is only now screaming at.

We all are a part of the system, who will either deal with this, or let it thrive.

It is no excuse that we are preoccupied with 'professionalism' or the 'corporate world'. So we can (pretend to) unlook, and sit pretty, while the world around us burns.

It is all connected. We are all connected. We all have a role to play, in every facet, in stamping out racial discrimination.

You, especially. With your privilege.

By refusing to feed into prejudicial judgements of "she's 'aggressive'", in the face of rightful indignation.

In not making light jokes and sneering remarks of "his name is difficult"; pushing aside a Resume, not on the (lack of) strength of the owner’s experience, but the inconvenience of their nomenclature.

Or staying away from that one black student in the whole class.

Or being worried that her hairstyle may be a "bit too urban", or his voice "a bit too loud", or her build "a bit too threatening".

Or that they should "watch his tone", "know her place", and stop being "uppity".

Or that "they do not 'get' the game of golf, what's the point of including them in weekend events?"

Or that they "speak with a 'strange' accent".

These are the 'little' prejudices, which culminate into the bigger fires burning around us.

This was the prejudice Amy Cooper tried to feed into, which could have easily led to yet another mournful hashtag.

Your part to play may not be comfortable, or cute. But it is the right thing. The only way, actually.

Go beyond that 'colourful' PowerPoint slide on Diversity and Inclusion. Take deliberate and affirmative action daily, in providing a thriving, non-passive-aggressive environment for the inclusivity of black people, even in positions of power.

Especially in positions of power.

Do not encourage or give room for any form of overt or covert unkindness against a person/people, based on personal (conscious or unconscious) racial prejudices against them.

Deliberate exclusion IS a form of unkindness.

Speak up and speak out when you see something wrong, rather than turn a blind eye under "let's just focus on the business".

Do not be defensive around the topic of racism, and try to deflect or gaslight shared experiences of black people around you.


Step out of your comfort zone to see life through the lens of another's experience, and not casually waive real concerns under stoic auspices of "I do not see colour".

You may not see it, but it does not take away from the fact that is exists. This is not just about you. It is about you, and billions of others.

That another's reality is not your reality does not detract from its realness.

We all are in this together, right? So wield your privilege for the greater good.

Be an active Ally.


Photo by Josh Ramos on Unsplashed

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