Everyday Racism is More Important Than You May Think
by Amélie Coupal on November 12, 2016 - 12:09pm
Beagan and Etowa’s (2009) study explored the relationship between African origins and occupational activities. To do so, the authors interviewed 50 African Nova Scotian women between the age of 40 and 65 years old. While other research focused on one particular place or event, Beagan and Etowa decided to study the more general damages of everyday racism. Everyday racism can be defined as routine. Indeed, they are simple, small comment that can be made as a joke. Alone, they are not important enough for the victim to say something about it: it is the accumulation that becomes a problem. Beagan and Etowa interviewed the 50 women on many subjects such as their level of depression, their health in general, the amount of stress related to “race” and racism they had, their ways of coping with racism and their personal experiences with racism. Following the interviews, the authors found that everyday racism is subtle, yet very common. One of the main findings is that African Canadian women are rarely harassed, insulted or threatened. Indeed, the most common incidents are being completely ignored by others, being followed in a store, being treated disrespectfully or not being taken seriously. The authors found that most participants (63%) viewed media and shopping as situations that “extremely” promoted everyday racism. Some women stated that “African-heritage” people are most often badly represented in the media which is why they are always vigilant when watching TV or reading a newspaper. Furthermore, a majority (69%) of the participants viewed public places such as restaurants and stores as areas where everyday racism was most common. Actually, they are sometimes ignored in a store or “refused” service. Some of them stated that employees were most of the time too “busy” to help them. A great number of the women interviewed (82%) stated that everyday racism affects their work situation because they were underestimated by their superiors and coworkers. They feel as they have to work a lot harder than their “white” coworkers in order to obtain the same reaction. According to the authors, other findings were that everyday racism greatly affects educational and parenting situation for African-heritage people. The authors’ conclusion is that everyday racism does have an effect on African Canadian women’s activities and engagement. In other words, the color of their skin affects the service they get in stores and restaurants, their educational and parenting experiences as well as their work experiences.
In my opinion, this research was well intended and well conducted, but the conclusion could be more clear. The concluding paragraph does not seem to really go back to the main findings of the research. Considering the fact that the research was about occupational therapy, it focuses on how therapists should act in consultations with African-heritage patients which is pleasant to learn, but not imperative to know. If I had one thing to change, I would forget about the occupational therapy part and concentrate on the more general effects of everyday racism. However, the findings are well described and explained and the research is, in general, quite easy to understand. The examples highly help the understanding of the results. As we saw in class, racism is defined as a system of power in which one group believes in their superiority over other groups based on physical factors such as skin colour and hair type. Considering this definition, the research really relates to racism as it examines women’s experiences in public situations with people who only base their reactions on physical characteristics.
Beagan, L.B., & Etowa, J. (2009). The impact of everyday racism on the occupations of African Canadian women. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76(4), 285-293. Retrieved from ProQuest.