Roots and causes of racism in the workplace

As we all know, racism in employment is not a modern term. Since the slavery trade, which took place in the United States of America three hundred and seventy five years ago, racial discrimination is a definite factor in the workplace and still on the increase. “Unemployment among Black and Asian workers has risen by two per cent to thirteen per cent-higher than it was ten years ago”, from the newsroom of the BBC World Service (1999), paper on line at: www. bbc. co. uk.

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One of the most important reasons for this development of racism in the workplace,is due to the large influx of Black slaves from Africa which entered America during the colonial time. “Xenophobia and insularity… have been part of our island story for centuries” (Bob Hepple,`Race jobs and law in Britain’,1992). Britain first expressed its feelings of hostility towards people of different ethnical origins, such as the Jewish immigration from Continental Europe, in the period between 1870 and 1914. Britain’s racial problems do not come from the type or the colour of the immigrants, but from the shear size of the wave of immigration that took place.

However it is not new to say that racial discrimination is wasteful for the economy or morally wrong, because these were the remarks made at this time. Racial discrimination in the British workplace deals with non-white workers doing a very simple task for a low payment with no possibilities of climbing through the hierarchical layers of the job promotion scale. More recently, Britain saw a massive inflow of a black cheap workforce directly imported from Britain’s colonies and ex-colonies,but also in the post-war period

the British government directly recruited Black workers. “They were recruited to do jobs which no one else would do… “(Camellia Palmer,`Discrimination at work’,1997) The British government installed legislation and policies to reduce immigration at the end of 1960’s with the RRA (Race Relation Act) in 1976, (which has since been amended) which deals with “unlawful discrimination exercised by the majority population against the immigrant groups who came to Britain”(Paul Nicholls,`Discrimination Law handbook, 1991).

However most of the blackworkforce in Britain is composed of English people, so with this change the language barrier is no longer an issue. However this does not tackle or address other important issues such as education and culture. There are a number of causes that have made racism more prominent in the workplace, two main causes that support the manifestation of racism in the workplace are : Ignorance and Difference. Since the beginning of immigration, government trends show that the government has isolated immigrants in remote areas away from active or wealthy suburbs.

These government acts underlined the concept of `Ignorance’ which is now viewed as the primary cause of racism in the workplace. Ignorance can push people to racism, even if the word does not imply the same meaning, the impact is the same, indeed ignoring someone because he is ethnically “different” in the workplace, can be seen as an act of racism even if it is not intentionally expressed. As we said before, “Difference” leads to racism. Why do white workers ignore or harass other Black or Pakistan’s workers? What revokes this in someone?

The only answer is “Difference”. For a long time people have been bothered, shocked and hostile with differences that other people show to them. People are racist because what they see or hear bothered them, like differences in education, culture or skin colour. The higher the intensity of difference perceived by people, the higher their racial discrimination can be. Even if people of organisations such as “Trade unions” in the workplace trend to reduce racism by fighting the different forms of racial discrimination and try to increase people’s tolerance.