Racial Bias Training: What You Should Know

Racial bias refers to any verbal and non-verbal gestures, decisions, and actions that discriminate based on race. Racial bias is implicit and stems from ignorance, stereotypes, and assumptions. Acts of racial bias can be both deliberate and unintentional.

Racial bias in the workplace perpetuates toxic cultures and behaviors. Prejudices are so deeply embedded in the human consciousness, that it becomes a part of the behavior. Many perpetrators of racial bias are unaware of their actions. This reveals that racism is not limited to overt aggression. Racism is internalized and leaves a deep impact on the survivor.

Implicit prejudice was first conceptualized in 1995. It results from a long history of oppression and racism and manifests in the workplace. It includes any hostile or derogatory remark about a marginalized group. For instance, questions about a person’s authority due to their race or hair, facial features, or culture. 

42% of American employees have witnessed or experienced racial bias in the workplace. 93% of white workers do not believe that racial bias exists in the workplace, and 35% of Black workers believe that racial discrimination exists. As opposed to this, only 7% of white workers believe that racial bias is a reality in the workplace.

Racial bias is automatic and can have real consequences in the workplace. It can affect talent acquisition, performance, credits, assignments, and promotions. 

It is important to counter oppression at the workplace. Not only does it demean employees and violate their rights, but it also ruins the reputation of the company. Racial bias training in the workplace helps minimize acts of racial discrimination.

Examples of Racial Bias in the Workplace

Racial bias in the workplace is an unfortunate reality in the US. Statistics reveal that a significant number of BIPOC have experienced racial bias. For instance, 48% of Black and 47% of Latina women are mistaken for the administrative staff. Moreover, whitewashed resumes are more likely to get callbacks as opposed to resumes of people of color. This number is based on assumptions and stereotypes about race. 

Here is a list of 4 examples of racial bias in the workplace:

  • Racial bias can include questioning the position of a person in the company. This implies that a person of a certain race is not qualified for the position.
  • Implying that features of a race can be unprofessional – for instance, signally that Black hairstyles could be unprofessional.
  • Using inappropriate language in job descriptions such as a job offer for a “native English speaker.”
  • Comments and gestures could include jokes about stereotypes or cultural differences.
  • Imposing important deadlines on non-American festivals and celebrations such as Eid, Diwali, or Chinese New Year.

Impact of Racial Bias in the Workplace

The impact of racial bias can be deep in the survivor. In a survey of 3570 respondents, 33% of survivors felt alienated, 34% withheld their ideas at the workplace, and 80% would not recommend their employer or job to other people.

Racial bias can lead to low emotional engagement, low employee satisfaction, and increased absenteeism in the workplace. Moreover, the employee has no motivation to work and can often feel guilty about not responding to the bias. 

Moreover, racial bias can contribute to the disparities in both physical and mental health of the BIPOC. It has serious implications for the survivor. If quantified, racial bias can add up to the hard costs of the company. Racial bias in the company encourages survivors to sabotage and increases the flight risk of employees.

What is Racial Bias Training?

Racial bias training is an educational program, much like diversity training. The popularity of racial bias training is on the rise today, with companies like Starbucks shutting down stores to educate their employees.

Racial bias training encourages employees to address racial bias at the workplace. It includes an introspection of past behavior and makes people realize their privilege at the workplace.

However, it should be noted that racial bias training can also be harmful to the workplace. By making it a perfunctory program, a company does more harm than good. Unfortunately, companies often use racial bias training as one-off events. This practical approach makes it a strategy instead of an ethical and social responsibility of the organization.

How to respond to Racial Bias in the Workplace

Responding to racial bias in the workplace is frightening for the survivor and the bystander. It is particularly difficult to respond to racial bias if it comes from one’s superior or boss. 

  1. As a victim

A survivor of racial bias can often find it difficult to respond to racial bias in the workplace. This hesitation can stem from past experiences, authority figures, and more. Choosing to respond to racial bias is at the survivor’s discretion. However, there are three ways in which a survivor can make their reaction known:

  • Reacting proactively: This includes a display of emotion by yelling. The survivor makes their opinion known by openly calling out the perpetrator.
  • Reacting assertively: It includes educating the perpetrator or having a discussion on the subject.
  1. As an HR

Choosing how to react to racial bias depends on the survivor. They should not be pressurized in any way by the authorities. HR needs to include consequences of racial bias in the company policy. Moreover, addressing the issue and opting for racial bias training is a wise counter to racial bias.

How Racial Bias Training works

Racial bias training seeks to educate employees in the workplace. The employees are educated about the underlying causes of racial bias. 

Racial bias training seeks to change the apathy of bystanders to empathy. It calls on the collective responsibility of individual employees to prevent such acts. The trainer will help employees to use certain strategies so they can intervene in the workplace. 

Racial bias training also helps provide care for the survivor or target of racial bias. It increases sensitivity to racial bias with the help of good examples.

Learning Goals of Racial Bias Training in the Workplace

Racial bias training seeks to teach the following to employees:

  • Explain the definition of racial bias and the acts of racial bias.
  • Explain the associated terms such as inclusivity, diversity, cultural sensitivity, assumptions, privilege, and stereotypes.
  • Learn how to identify acts of racial bias in the workplace.
  • Impact of racial bias in the workplace.
  • Introspection of past behavior to identify acts of racial bias.
  • Bystander intervention to prevent and minimize acts of racial bias at the workplace.
  • Explain the three types of racial bias in the workplace: information bias, confounding, and selection bias.
  • Acceptance of prejudices in the workplace. Addressing prejudices in the workplace.

An organization can counter racial bias by initiating conversation and addressing such acts. Moreover, company policies need to be upgraded with serious consequences. Hierarchy in the organization can hinder inclusivity. By holding everyone accountable, racial bias can be countered in the workplace. It promotes productivity in the workplace and improves both the company’s image and the employee’s work. 
Racial bias training is the only recourse for firms, as trained counselors supervise it. Thus, racial bias training is a necessary program to promote a culture of inclusivity and tolerance at the workplace.

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