Constructive Race Conversations
Racism, as elsewhere described in this website (Race Relations in South Africa) is nationally as well as internationally an ongoing problem that directly affects a significant number of people. For decades … centuries we have been trapped in racialised beliefs systems patterns, prejudicial mindsets and discriminatory dynamics that have weaved our experiences of privilege, oppression, dominance, superiority, inferiority, prejudice and discrimination into the very fabric of life as experienced by us. On a structural, socio-economic, political and psychological level these dynamics have scarred individuals and split society into “us” and “them”.
Though we might state that huge shifts have taken place in redressing these issues since our democracy, we still have a long journey ahead in tackling race-related inequality, bias and discrimination. The need, at this moment in time, seems more pertinent than ever to host generative conversations that will foster more equitable and inclusive race-relations. This calls seems to be heralded by academic, industry experts and business leaders across the globe.
But talking about racism can be difficult. As the MIT Sloan Executive Education review states “Discussing race, religion, and politics in the workplace has been taboo for decades. Even in safer spaces and among friends, conversations about race are particularly difficult and anxiety provoking.” The Australian Human Rights Commission hence points out that many organisations thus fall in the trap of not discussing race relations until they are faced with an incident of racism, such as a derogatory comment made by one person to another, or an instance of offensive behaviour. This situation is often made even worse when it is regarded as an isolated occurrence rather than an indication of a bigger systemic problem.
In the aftermath of such incidences, organisations may not be well prepared to navigate the issues arising with the appropriate level of care. A new approach where race-relations are dealt with proactively rather than reactive is desperately needed. Business leaders have realised that “when we avoid constructive conversation about our differences (race, gender, disability…), communication deteriorates and productivity suffers."