5 Easy Ways to Spot a Racist Coworker

Institutional racism is endemic in the corporate world, especially in Silicon Valley, where almost everyone firmly believes neither they or their company is racist and only by coincidence are all the employees white or Asian. 

Curing institutional racism will require major changes, like anonymous interviewing and–let’s just say it–targets and quotas to overcome unconscious bias. (Many companies feel comfortable with gender targets, but ethnic targets, not so much.)

While many people have unconscious bias, there are some who are just plain old racist. Since I grew up among racists, I can spot them easily. Here are the warning signs, with real life examples:

1. They begin sentences with “I’m not a racist but…”

Only racists feel the need to establish that they’re not racists. The dead giveaway is what comes after the “but…” It’s always some outrageously racist remark that they feel it’s OK to say out loud because they’ve established that they’re not racists.

Example: I was in a writer’s group (all white) where one writer read a story that contained every possible racial stereotype. When I pointed out the story was offensive, he explained “I’m not a racist.” Everyone else took his statement at face value, so I quit the group.

2. They cite a “black friend” as proof they’re not racist.

Having a friend, a lover, or even a child of a different ethnicity doesn’t prove you’re not racist. All it proves is you’re making an exception. Consider: the notorious white supremacist Strom Thurmond fathered a child on an African American domestic.

Example: A relative of mine who holds very racist views once tried to “prove” to me she wasn’t racist by sending me a picture of one of her clients, who happened to be African American. Of course, her effort proved the opposite. I don’t talk with her much.

3. They tell jokes that hinge on racial stereotypes.

Racists like to “test the waters” to before expressing openly racist views. A common way to do this is to tell a ethnic joke and see how the other person or the group reacts. If there’s disapproval, the racist clams up. If there’s approval, they reveal their true views.

Example: Early in my career, I worked with a guy who told lots of ethnic jokes. Because I was a newbie, I kept my mouth shut. One day I was in a car with him while he was driving. He got cut off and, boom!, out came the n-word. From then on, I avoided him.

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Source: INC.com | Geoffrey James