The once impenetrable blue wall has fallen.
Last week, former cop Derek Chauvin was found guilty on charges of murder and manslaughter following the death of George Floyd last May. Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for approximately nine-and-a-half minutes after arresting him.
Following the verdict, U.S. President Joe Biden remarked, “But it is not enough. We can’t stop here,” signalling that the Chauvin verdict and the #blacklivesmatter movement is the zeitgeist the country desperately needs to embrace as racial injustice still persists and continues to be perpetuated by those in power — including employers.
In 2020, the CBC reported that even following convictions of drunk driving and assault only seven Toronto Police officers over the preceding 10 years were fired. Most kept their jobs. Few private citizens would remain employed after the same conduct. More concerning is the tribunal condoning the gross misconduct of these officers, including behaviour that discriminates against racialized citizens like George Floyd, allowing it to perpetuate again here in Canada.
Racial discrimination must be tackled in workplaces first for us to experience any meaningful change in society. It is where the majority of adult citizens spend most of their time. I have shared statistics in the past of the under representation of visible minorities in the workplace. The Environics Institute released a study in December 2019 confirming “the reality of racism exists in Canada.”
Anywhere from a third to half of Canadians of colour reported being discriminated against. And 40% of those who said they experienced racism reported that it happened at work. This means most workplaces likely have workers who have experienced unchecked racism.
Racism in the workplace can often be subtle, through acts of omission, failing to include employees of colour in important workplace decisions and events and can have a lasting impact on the promotion of these employees in the workplace.
It can also be overt. I have been written-off as being an “affirmative action hire” by people who have never met me. Surely if one gives it any real thought, I couldn’t have simply lucked my way into a rigorous and vigorous career serving hundreds of clients every year, working hundreds of hours a month to get there. The problem is most people don’t think about it and stereotypes live on.
The Chauvin decision is a clarion call for workplaces to embrace the responsibility it brings with it. Employers must introduce diverse employees into their management ranks to address the racial bias that exists in their organizations. Tokenism is not enough; employees of colour in positions of power also carry an immense duty. They must speak up and speak often about the issues and barriers that people of colour face in the hiring process, in the workplace and in being promoted.