I don’t actually know why I took so long to write this post, but in all honesty it refers a lot to my previous job (and the one before that) so maybe I was trying to be smart about it. As the title suggests this post will be about my personal experiences with work place racism because guess what – it’s still a thing. Mainly because businesses and workplaces are run by people, and people still have ingrained biases against anyone of colour.
It can sort of present itself in small ways like you being looked down on by a line manager, being left out of vital conversations and having your achievements being overlooked time and time again. I’ve dealt with a lot of weird micro aggressions as well as the major stuff and honestly it’s fucking exhausting. Part of me doesn’t even want to write about a lot of it in detail as I have a heft Glassdoor review that needs planning and I can’t write it all here.
So lets start off with a little story time, a little tale, a tale of a line manager who was so inherently racist that a lot of us people of colour didn’t stand a chance to begin with. We were all on fixed term contracts for a year, we were working on a massive project that involved changing up a whole website for a major brand so we were in for a wild ride to begin with as there were a lot of weird politics happening within the office as a result of it.
With new projects comes waves of recruitment, they needed a whole new team for this as they’d have to keep their preexisting people to maintain the ‘business as usual’ work. So back to this project, it was a lot and I was part of the first wave of 10 people, then came the wave of 30 people and honestly they’d essentially hired 60+ people for this project by the time I’d been there for 5 months. With waves of recruitment in Birmingham comes a more diverse team, as when I started you could literally play a game called ‘spot the ethnic’, as we were the real minority, but on this new team, we had a good bit of diversity.
So this line manager had his clear favourites, the people he spoke to, the chosen few and guess what their demographic was – white as fuck is what it was. I remember trying to speak to him in my early days about work and asking general questions, and when I say he looked terrified to answer my questions, I’m not exaggerating. Further down the line I had the same conversation with other people of colour and generally we came to an agreement that he was uncomfortable around people of colour.
Because I was part of the first wave of recruitment, by the time the team got larger I became someone who was in a position to help out more, do some training and really take on more responsibility outside of my actual job. In my previous job I already had experience training people so I really utilised that and befriended a few seniors who were also aware of this. Whenever my senior was off, I would take on his responsibilities and manage the team, alongside someone else who had started around the same time as I did.
Of course with any workplace that has a social atmosphere comes my own personal fuck ups, I did get too ranty at some points and really expressed my frustrations at the blatant favouritism my white colleagues got over me, maybe that was my mistake, I should have played the game better, but that’s the thing, I was naive and thought my actual abilities would shine more.
So remember the contracts I’d mentioned well we’re getting there and in order to explain the impact of the decisions made I also need to set the scene a little bit more. Let’s talk about my team, now there was a weird thing going on where they’d put a lot of us who ‘looked’ the part on markets like MENA (Middle East North Africa) which was weird because none of us could speak Arabic, it’s one of those things you wouldn’t really notice until you actually looked at us.
There was also the fact that amongst the Seniors at the time, the white senior had a team that was mainly white, and the other got most of us people who had any form of ethnicity with the other, who you might of guessed it is a person of colour. So that was weird, because it was intentional not accidental, but also something you wouldn’t notice unless you really had a look at it.
The reason I highlight this is because a lot of these team structures were built on unconscious/intentional racial bias and that’s important for setting up how our line manager actually saw us.
The team I was on was also arguably the best team out of the project (before work beef tore us apart), and we were a diverse team as well. We never got recognition for doing our work fast and efficient, we were never thanked for helping out other teams and our line manager not only ignored us all of the time, but in his lovely seating plans he always sat us on the edge, so we couldn’t really engage with the wider team.
Before our contracts came to an end I moved department, mainly to grow my own personal development but because I knew I was wasted on this project. There’s only so much extra work I could take on with no recognition for it, and also our project was filled to the brim with gossips and that wasn’t healthy for me at all. So I move departments and got to experience a smaller team and a line manager that actually treated us like adults and with respect – when I say I was shook, that’s an understatement.
On our big project we were so used to being belittled and treated with no respect that I honestly just assumed that’s what the whole company was like, so to see another side to the place was shocking.
You can tell at this point that the way this place dealt with contracts was disgusting. So one day they would call in people one by one and give them a letter essentially letting them know they weren’t being kept on, some (white) people got positive news, most of us got negative news. Most people were also shocked that I wasn’t kept on because I had helped out so many people. So I was angry, understandably because I knew it wasn’t due to my skill, but due to upper management being arseholes.
One of the reasons my contract was effected by the old department is because my move to a new department was a secondment, which is basically a fancy way of saying doing a new job for a bit then moving back to your old one, so technically my ‘extension’ decision would be made by the old awkward line manager.
Now I didn’t even piece together the racial aspect of it all until after. So despite my contract being cut, because I moved departments they somehow found a way to keep me on, explaining it is far too long but basically I was kept on. So when I came in I was able to see a common denominator between who was kept on and who wasn’t – every single person of colour was scrapped.
In a diverse department of 60+ people they literally yeeted away the melanin. It had nothing to do with skill, I had personally worked with a lot of people and they got rid of loads of people who were great at their jobs, and kept some on who were ‘meh’. I don’t care who goes against this, but that decision was straight up racist. The audacity of them to blatantly get rid of a whole department of people of colour and act like it was based on skill, honestly it was disgusting and that really should have led a riot, but it couldn’t, because the only people left were white and honestly a lot of them didn’t see the issue with this.
They still don’t, they probably never will and honestly I’m glad to be rid of the place.
There’s so much more I want to write about, but your girl does not want to get sued, so instead this is what you get, a little tale of something that happened last year and a reminder that work place racism is very much still a thing!