Surviving a Racist Workplace

For the past month or so, I have been deliberately thinking about getting out. I spend much of my time contemplating about the best way to leave not just the company I’m currently working at but out of Kuwait entirely.

There were a lot of changes that took place at work in the past couple of months and it’s very unfortunate that I have to work with racist superiors. It is very tempting to leave my position but it also puts me at an unfair advantage specially so that it wasn’t me who created an uncongenial workplace to begin with. 

I am the only female employee in my workplace and to disagree with the managers who have control over my job is tough. Having higher-ranked racist managers is even tougher. To be recently excluded from some of the benefits I used to enjoy since I started working here just because I’m not Korean is quite unacceptable, unreasonable and offensive after all these years of working my ass for the company specially the last year or so. 

For most of us, majority of our time is spent in the workplace. And at work, we don’t usually have a choice to go with a group we personally would want to work with. But we have a common goal and for a country and a company like this, we have to work in a very diverse working environment since much of its manpower are of a mixed race whether we like it or not. Personally, this is not a difficult thing to deal with as long as we all are treated fairly. However, working in a racially hostile environment is stressful and affects a person’s well-being. I’ve been working in the same company for the past seven years and racism was never an issue until very recently after all the changes that took place.

I personally find no excuse for people who say racist comments specially in the workplace. I don’t believe I should just swallow hurtful remarks. I take such things personally. I know it’s the other person’s issue and not mine but as I’ve mentioned, I take it very personal but I try to process it as healthily as I could.

I can’t help but speak up when I hear racist comments at work even when it is not directed to me or any other specific person. It is not okay because it makes everyone start thinking it is acceptable. If a comment hurts me, I feel the need to address this to the person who made the comment. It is difficult not to say anything and it may even imply that I agree with them. But speaking up puts my job at risk in return. And I have to consider the person’s authority over my job, too. I should be realistic of the consequences it will cause me but it’s not very easy to just shut up and pretend I don’t hear anything.

Sometimes, I just change the subject. However, this relies of course in the other person’s emotional intelligence. If they pick up the cue that I don’t agree with what they said, then it’s good. At times, they even apologize.

Some days, it’s nice to play dumb at racist jokes. Acting dumb and asking the person what his racist joke means often leaves them not being able to explain why it’s funny. It would need them to suggest a racist stereotype should they want to explain and when this happens, I’d be glad to ask the accuracy of such stereotyping and then it’s easy to pinpoint the racism in his joke.

I’m not sure how much longer I can manage to continue working here. When something’s wrong, it is really difficult to turn a blind eye. Apparently, to confront racism is a long haul. It is a slow process and takes a lot of patience. And mine is running out.

Quote of the Week

Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.

~Alain de Botton