Everyday racism: Has anything changed asks author Mini Nair

Fighting gender issues at workplace
The treatment of the weakest in any system is the index of how strong and fair the system is. I am inspired when I see mighty powers who can change, but they choose not to. Instead, they browbeat. For me this has to change! If we aspire for egalitarianism. 

Case A

A European multinational company, has a European manager who has people reporting to him from INDIA. The manager, Mathew Blunder resides, let’s say, in France. There is some talk going on in the organization about the dismissal of another employee. And Blunder makes a sweeping statement that gossip always generates from India. He insinuates that Indians are gossipmongers.

Case B

A woman employee is selected to ascertain her skills for further growth in the company. And at the end of the session she finds her scores fudged for reasons she cannot fathom.

Case C

A woman attending an interview is prodded gently on when will she get married and have babies. And she does not hear from the interviewer again.

The above are a fraction of the discriminatory instances happening in corporate India.  Especially, companies where the Caucasian race still hold positions of power. The colonial mindset has not changed and the value of Indian managers and executives are seen as providing labour. The colonial mindset is unkind to the women employee too.

The words racism, bigots and supremacists have entered our space and either we use it or we read about it or hear about it almost every day.  Racists, bigots and supremacists are separated by thin lines and often the difference is not noticeable.

Someone who believes that a particular race is superior to others and who makes negative judgements or assumptions or embraces negative stereotypes can be called a racist.

A bigot is someone similar to a racist, but operates on a wide angle targeting people of different nationalities, backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender, caste or religion.

A supremacist, generally, a white supremacist is like a member of the white boy network.  Anybody not similar to them them is a victim to their methods of pressure.

Racism has evolved, like everything else. It has grown and entered spaces like schools, universities, neighborhoods and offices.  It started its journey from an innocuous bias to stereotype and then graduated to its current form.

In days of yore racism was very much like what was described in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and To kill a mocking bird.  A coarser form when the distinguishing specifics or the colloquial were hurled to show one one’s place.

“I’ve always had a prejudice against Negroes and it’s a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but, I didn’t think she knew it.” (246)-

Source: Stow, Harriet. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Hertfordshire, London: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2002.

Who can forget the above line from Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  A racist is admitting his dislike toward Negroes.

When the racist makes his belief known through language indicating the victim’s position it is a straightforward case and no arguments can save the racist.

Once, I was travelling in the local train and I witnessed a fight between two women of different religions. The woman wearing the bindi (red vermillion mark on the forehead) called the other ‘bin tok’.  A colloquial slang to describe circumcision in Muslim men.  I did not stay back to see the end of the fight however, I could sense the bias hovering in the mind of the woman who called out the slang so spitefully. And it did not require me to do great math to understand where the

Racism has become more polished in the corporate world.  It lurks behind the ties and the tuxedo and in the meeting rooms where a corporate future is decided.  It moves sophisticatedly behind power points and is there like a fault line between hierarchies.  I, a brown woman having worked in organizations managed from Europe and America, and still working in one have felt the spear of racism tear through me.  

Often, I am asked, how can you prove racism in such a, say refined place where everyone wants to be seem as a liberal. Such a valid question! No screaming names, no coarse language used.  It’s covert and appears like discriminating lines in an email or violating a corporate process, in order to discriminate, and covering it up like a criminal when there are chances of being found out.

In the Indian corporate world, racism is swept under the carpet. It can be dislike or harassment but not the R word.

I know of a case in corporate India, where a white man targeted an Indian woman and furthered on to single out the brown race.  The white man had no sense of remorse and he carried on business like usual.

And I say when you know you are singled out for what you cannot change, for who you are, then its racism.

Women are the easiest victims. Not selected for a job, because they will get married and then have babies is an excuse as old as my grandfather. Or while being judged for further career growth, the woman’s scores are fudged for no reason. Or being excluded from meetings that are conducted late evening.  Of course, the above are gender discriminations, and the perpetrator of the crime is a bigot.  

Often, the perpetrator of the crime is not even aware of what he/she is doing. But that does not absolve the person.  It only means the racist thought is so deep seated that it becomes a matter –of-fact action.  It also means an, ‘I can get away with it attitude’.  

Every person and employee must involve all the rules and laws to call out the racists, bigots and supremacists. If we remain silent, then we are fostering forces that are dangerous to society we are living in.

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Audre Lorde, Our Dead behind Us: Poems

Mini Nair is a published author of the book, The Fourth Passenger’, She works by the day at Clariant  and writes at night. Thus maintaining her sanity!


Views are the authors own