There have been conversations around race and equality which have exposed what most black people already knew. I would like to believe they have paved the way for some amazing change to happen, especially change in the workplace for minorities.
People have said that racism in the UK is relatively better compared to other countries. Even if that statement was acceptable, it still implies that there is racism, therefore there is a problem that needs fixing. Contrary to some misguided beliefs, racism in the UK does exist. The form of covert racism experienced here occurs largely in the form of microaggressions.
Microaggressions can feel easy to ignore and brush off. Often the collection of these microaggressions can cause a build up in our hearts and create a home in us. I have even found myself feeling silly at the consideration of reporting them.
Have you ever shaken a bottle of pop and left it alone? It looks fine right? Someone else can come and pick it up none the wiser that it’s been shaken. I found that every microaggression I experienced was probably like a bottle of pop being shaken then left. Outwardly I appeared fine, continued with my duties, fulfilled what I was created for and to top it of, I looked good too!
Every compliment about how “good” my English was or a ’compliment’ about me being “nicer than most black girls” a shake of my confidence and ability to be freely myself. Someone invading my personal space to touch my hair without my permission or use expressions such as “sassy, sis, and girl” another shake. Now back to the pop, there will eventually come a time that a person can tell it has been shaken and shaken too much, what happens when you shake pop too hard? It blows and spills into everything. I did not realise that every experience had left me feeling more tense and it wouldn’t take much for me to fall apart.
I finally blew and fell apart, though it was a gradual process. The microaggressions I had been experiencing since the age of 11 had been slowly worming their way into my heart and mind. I was filled with anxiety and there were key incidents that contributed to that. I worked with a girl who was very comfortable with using racial slurs and wanted to find out why she could not use those slurs around me as her and her family used it all time. It ‘didn’t hurt anyone’ she would add.
I reported her to my line manager and requested that I not be put on the same team as her any more. I was informed this was not something my manager could do so I would have to work with her. At another place, a lady used a racial slur to describe people of African origin as she was describing a historical piece. When approached in conversation by myself after that, she wondered if history should be erased as she could not use the word "Negro". HR was good at dealing with that situation however, I did find that like most companies in the UK did not have a clear policy on how to report racism. There are no procedures in place to recognise and deal with it as swiftly as other types of discrimination. In both instances, I received an apology, however I was still shaken and my anxiety spilt into my work, sleep and home life.
There are three things I began to do:
Letters to God - I had lost the ability to verbally express myself to God but found strength in writing Him a letter.
Worship - I spent time in actual worship as I recognised this was part of my journey to heal and rebuild my identity.
Bible reading plan - I followed a Bible plan called ‘The Peace that surpasses all understanding’.
Sleep - I intentionally trained my body to sleep. You can imagine how easy it is to lose sleep due to a mind that is unsettled. Recognising the need for sleep was important for me.
How to find your peace and growth
If you are struggling like I was or on a journey like I am now, below are some books and verses that encouraged my growth. It is okay to take time out and seek out someone who will listen when racism occurs in the workplace; go to therapy, workplaces have schemes for mental well-being, access a service through your GP and invite someone in so you can have a support structure.
The work of healing doesn’t negate changing the environment and that includes going to HR and beyond if need be. The world is hard enough as it is, we don’t need to add someone else’s prejudice too. The world is also a beautiful place, we know we are to live life to its fullest. We are loved beyond sacrifice and God is for us and He said it was good!
Mk.12:31; Jh.3:16; Ps.139:14; Mt.11:28-30; Is.41:10-13; Mt.6:25-34
Americanah – C. Ngozi Adiche
We Need to talk about Race – B. Lindsay