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Shining a spotlight on structural racism in Britain today

Published date
Today is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

As much as it's important to recognise this day, we must also be honest that Britain has a real problem with structural racism. And it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon.

Structural racism is a collective practice that exists in workplaces and in wider society, in the form of attitudes, behaviours, actions and processes.

BME workers too often experience racism at work, which is part of their everyday life. And more times than not it's hidden.

There are the more obvious racist incidents that take place. But also the more hidden types such as micro-aggressions, implicit bias and prejudice. Which all act as proxies for race and class.

Structural racism is the exertion of power and privilege based on race and class.

When power and privilege dominate the boardrooms and influential positions, it has a huge impact on working culture and on working people’s lives.

Polls show one in three BME workers have been bullied or harassed at work since the Brexit vote.

Racism at work could be bullying or harassment at work, verbal abuse, assault or physical violence, or even being singled out for unfair treatment, like not being allowed training or development, while white workers had that opportunity more readily.

And because of this structural problem, many BME workers don't report racist incidents at work.

Nearly half of BME people who experienced unfair treatment did not report the incident to their employer.

If we bring this into the bigger picture - nearly half of BME workers experiencing bullying and harassment confided in a friend or colleague at work.

And the issue is even worse for BME women and young workers.

Nearly half of BME women did not report the fact that they had seen racist material being shared or racist remarks directed at them.

It could be because BME women are scared of repercussions at work.

Young workers who did raise the issue of seeing racist material being shared said that they were treated less well at work.

And all of this has a major impact at work.

Racial discrimination is more likely to affect the well-being and life aspirations of any individual.

Racism can have a damaging effect on health and well being and is only seen as a problem when someone is abused or treated differently because of their race.

We need a major shift in attitudes, policies and workplace culture and processes.

Racism for many is seen as something that has been greatly reduced even eliminated from the workplace, remaining in a more subtle form, but this is clearly not what we are seeing.

Due to racism in the labour market, BME workers are disproportionately concentrated in low paid jobs and sectors. They are often seen as poorly educated, inexperienced and aggressive if they speak up. So instead they choose to suffer in silence and feel isolated at work. 

BME workers should feel confident they can report their experiences and raise their concerns. Without concerns that their complaint will be dealt with satisfactorily and in a timely way.

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