In the previous blog of our Systemic Racism series – The Invisible Visible Minority, we discussed the importance of definitions and how without clearly defining a problem, solutions can be very hard to find.
But definitions can never truly portray a lived experience, much as a number in a statistic can never speak of a personal tragedy. It is crucial that everyone tries to imagine the reality of racialized people’s lives. Imagine if your name is reason for being unemployed, for being poor.
Getting a job is the first block in building a life for a family, but merely having a name that signals a non-white person can be an obstacle. In fact, a study conducted in nine countries measured employment discrimination by calculating the percentage of interview call-backs for applicants with names that signaled non-white race or ethnicity and those that signaled white ethnicity. In Canada, it was 44%.
A similar study was done by Economics Professor, Philip Oreopolous at the University of British Columbia, found the same result but added that the location of the applicant’s job experience, from Canadian to foreign, lowered callbacks by a further 5-10%.
Because racialized people often do not get hired in their line of work, they are forced to take low wage and/or precarious work. Chances of finding a job in their line of work drop significantly once they join this low-wage labour market.
In the case that they get hired, they do not get equal pay. A study made in Ontario in 2018, found that racialized men earned 76 cents for every dollar non-racialized men earned. And racialized women earned 85 cents for every dollar non-racialized women earned. A racialized woman earned 58 cents to every dollar a non-racialized man earned.
The other, and more subtle, level of discrimination is one that cannot be quantified nor proven by statistics but is evidenced in racialized people’s stories and experiences. It is marginalization in the workplace.
Stories recounted by racialized people in Canada about their experiences of marginalization in the workplace are plenty. When dealing with clients, they are assigned either similarly racialized clients or unprofitable and unimportant clients. As a result, success and promotions are far-fetched. They are almost never invited for off work get togethers, and so never form amicable or close relations with their co-workers. In cases of blatant racism from a colleague or a manager, they are often told that they are “just being too sensitive”. In the unlikely event they are obtained, success and promotions are hard fought for, require tremendous resilience, and cannot be achieved without support from a high-ranking individual in the workplace.
Racialized people make up more than one-fifth of the Canadian workforce. A study by Catalyst and Ascend Canada states that about 69% of racialized people (the study included Black, East and South Asians professionals only) interviewed said that they had seriously contemplated leaving their jobs due to increased emotional distress. 77% of racialized women and men shared harrowing stories of exclusion and being on guard in the workplace.
It is a shame that Canada prides itself in its diversity and inclusion, yet many Canadians suffer every day. Our country welcomes immigrants every year, and over 60% of them arrive through the Skilled Worker Program. Many of those skilled individuals come here to face unemployment and poverty, or find glass ceilings barring their advancement and success.
In the coming blogs we will touch upon the continuation of the cycle of systemic racism in other aspects of racialized people’s lives.