In these days of workplace revolutions, no stones should be left unturned and no indication of racism left unexplored. While the transformation of the corporate culture and training of staff and management are necessary, protecting employees from the overt and covert racism of clients and vendors is imperative.
Should organizations subject their minoritized staff to racism and mental health issues to protect profits and bottom line?
Is this not what many do when they trained their staff to tell their clients, “thank you for your business”, even if a client called the staff the N-word or mocked their accent and aspect of their ancestry?
I was subjected to this inhumane racialized and mental health experience in my first job in Canada as a customer service representative for many years working for a major organization.
I loved the job so much and was one of their best Customer Service Representatives, and still consider it one of my favourite jobs because helping people has always been my thing – although I later left to start my own business when I discovered that helping was my calling.
It did not take long for me to be subjected to the racist remarks of our customers, as some, angry with the bank for one reason or the other would call me the N-word and insult my heritage.
Some racialized staff would be rudely asked by clients:
“Where the hell are you from?”
“What the hell are you doing in Canada?”
“It must be hard for you in Africa to come here and take up our jobs”, others will say.
Anytime we (the minoritized group of employees) brought it up with our managers, they would ask us to (basically) live with it and do what the customer wants.
They would often say, “the client is ALWAYS right.”
Really? Is the customer right to abuse me at will. Mock my background and insult my heritage?
Must staff bend over and be humiliated, disrespected, abused and commanded by white supremacists?
Is this not another form of slavery?
Should the management of any organization force, manipulate or coerce their employees to subject themselves to racist insults, humiliation and mental abuse because of the bottom line?
Why should I be faulted for politely ending a call after repeatedly warningthe client to refrain from insulting me because I am an immigrant or have an accent that they can clearly understand?
While I went through a lot of these types of corporate abuses at the hands of some clients, some of my minoritized colleagues consistently had mental breakdowns.
You will not believe how many colleagues I found in the washroom crying because of racist insults from clients that management refused to do anything about.
Why would you hire immigrants as call centre representatives due to the low pay and yet refuse to protect their emotional and mental health from overt and covert racism?
Why set up an internal diversity task force to deal with covert systemic racism within your workplace and yet do nothing about overt racism by your clients and vendors?
At the Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity & Workplace Equity, we propose that organizations that claim to care about ending systemic racism must make a bold public statement to terminate agreements with their clients and vendors who use racial slurs against their staff and anyone for that matter.
They must issue a public statement to denounce all types of racism and make their position clear to protect their staff from discrimination, harassment, racialization, intimidation, and abuse.
If you care to end systemic racism, demand accountability from your sources of profit too!
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