How do you know if you’re the victim of racial discrimination at work? An openly racist boss or group of co-workers may make the issue obvious — but those are rarer than the bosses and co-workers who act in subtler ways.
For many, the fact that they’re already uncomfortable at work can be compounded by comments like, “You’re too sensitive,” and “You can’t take a joke.” Comments like that make it sound like you — the victim — are somehow at fault for the racial tension in the office.
So, what can you do to determine if you are a victim of racial discrimination at work? Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are racially-oriented or stereotypical jokes being tossed around?
If you’re hearing jokes that target your ethnic looks, accent or anything else associated with your race, that’s not appropriate. Jokes are supposed to be fun for everyone — not something used to belittle others.
2. Are the prime assignments, locations, hours or promotions all going to one race?
Does it seem like your employer gives preference to employees of one race but not others? Is one race singled out for poor treatment? For example, if all the white employees are given regular day shifts while the Hispanic employees are forced to work split shifts or night shifts, that’s discrimination.
3. Are you being targeted for an unusual amount of scrutiny?
Does your employer turn a blind eye when most people in the office come back from lunch five minutes late? Does he or she pounce on you, though, when you do the same thing? Are you asked to justify your time sheets when nobody else is asked? If your job performance is viewed more critically than others — and all those others are of a different race — you may be experiencing discrimination.
4. Are you being questioned and criticized about things that have nothing to do with work?
Does your employer ask you inappropriate questions about how “your people” do things or expect you to defend someone’s actions based on your race? For example, questions like, “Why do so many of you Hispanics come here illegally?” or “Why do you black people want to wear dreadlocks?” are thinly-veiled racist remarks.
If you answered affirmatively to any of these questions, it seems like racial discrimination is an issue at your workplace.