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White Reference from No-White World

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When we think of anything that relates to an individual person who do we think of?

The accompanying pictorial depiction of a job interview is not an imaginary one. It is based on real event.

An immigrant friend who has extensive knowledge and experience in her homeland in Africa was asked for a reference from someone different than what her resume contained. Not fearing discomfort or that he could be labelled racially insensitive this recruiter put it bluntly and asked that she provide some white people as her reference.

As the world is awakening to the importance of creating more diverse workplaces such blunt biases are not often openly displayed and are rare occurrences. The fact that this happened to one of us is a demonstration of the fact that discriminations such as this are still blatant in this age defined by the Black Lives Matter movement. Biases are demonstrated in subtle nuances, non-acceptance of job seekers that come from different race and culture and those are still prevalent. For many immigrants this is, unfortunately, still a reality they face almost at every juncture of life.

Think about this: when we think of anything that relates to an individual person who do we think of? Usually it is a white man. Or a white woman. We have to consciously make that effort to think of another ethnicity or gender because our visions are so influenced by the most visible group – the white male. It is interesting to note that white population is not the largest demography in the world. In fact, only 27 percent of the world population is white. 73 percent of the world is non-white.

A study for the Privy Council Office in 2017 found that Canadians are proud to live in an open society and believe that diversity helps to strengthen the country’s economy, but they remain wary of new arrivals.

A majority of Canadians agreed that diversity is a defining characteristic of the country and that it has economic benefit. However it also found that the Canadians did not reach out to new immigrants to make them feel welcome. The survey measured the level of interaction respondents had with various minority groups and found that the interactions with someone from a different race and community was minimal.

When it comes to immigrants, Canadian workplaces and employers can do much more than what is being done. How about starting by offering a position to a qualified immigrant and provide him or her the “Canadian -experience” on-the-job? How about looking beyond the colour of their skin, the accent in their tongue and peculiarity in their names?

The world witnessed massive movement such as Black Lives Matter and calls for racial justice are reverberating all over, however, it hasn’t persuaded the change in the mind sets of many. Micro-aggressions still persist.

A sociological experiment in 2009 found that black applicants or applicants with non-white sounding names received fewer call backs for jobs. This study extended the experiment in wider areas of life and not just about jobs. A study, for example, responded to online apartment rental ads with varied names of those seeking to rent the apartment. Those with black sounding names were found twenty-six percent less likely to be told that the apartment was available.

The judgement one attaches to a foreign sounding name, a foreign looking person, a foreign sounding voice are deep and substantial. An article “The Truth about Anti-White Discrimination” in Scientific American states “This kind of direct evidence of discrimination against minorities have been found in other arenas. Professors are more likely to ignore emails from students of colour. Airbnb hosts are more likely to tell black renters that the listing has already been taken. Pager and her colleagues published a meta-analysis incorporating every field experiment on hiring since the first ones were carried out in the 1980’s. Across two dozen studies, black applicants were called back 36 percent less than whites with the same qualifications. Not a single study found a reliable anti-white bias. Most sobering of all, the rate of discrimination is the same today as in the 1980’s.”
The last statement in the above finding is particularly telling. The talks about fair representation and racial equality seem to not have brought about significant shift. This is not to say that it is not changing. The change is tardy, to say the least.

What can and should we do to shake up the status quo? Discriminatory beliefs and attitudes that are deep seated in the mind sets will not be changed by laws and regulations alone. Recognizing that the problem persists is the first step. These require multiple-level social interventions as well as individual understanding that their own beliefs are troubling and that it needs to be corrected. Changing points-of-view, creating acceptance of the other and blurring the lines between “us” and “them” will come through long and hard look at belief systems and raising questions where necessary.

There is also a need to recognize that this is everybody’s problem and not just of those who are discriminated against. Solutions have to be sought from all points: organizational, social, educational, economic and political. Organizations that have successfully created a racially diverse workforce can be emulated. All diverse voices and choices should be honoured.

When it comes to immigrants, Canadian workplaces and employers can do much more than what is being done. How about starting by offering a position to a qualified immigrant and provide him or her the “Canadian -experience” on-the-job? How about looking beyond the colour of their skin, the accent in their tongue and peculiarity in their names? How about giving a chance to their abilities, celebrating the different perspective they bring to the table? How about adding warmth to the welcome that’s extended to the immigrants with jobs that are at par with their qualifications? How about giving them the remuneration that match their skills?

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