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.

Comments

I was drawn to this post by the title, which was worded in a way that made me want to read on. I agree with the main conclusion of this study that everyday racism, even if it seems small and insignificant, can have a big effect on people. The most shocking number, to me, was the 82% of women who said that everyday racism affects their work situation because it is harder for them to get ahead than their coworkers. I knew that workplace racism was a real issue, but I was surprised that nearly all the women interviewed had experience this. I’ve never experienced any form of everyday racism but I do know people who have, so I understand the effect that even a few “jokes” can have on person. I found this post to be very insightful, and it made me interested in reading more about this issue.

This post caught my attention because it defined racism as “routine”. This really struck me because when I think about racism I often label “unusual”. I tend to think about it in terms of isolated incidents or specific examples I see in the news, however this post really flipped that idea around and challenged my view of the issue. This post showed how everyday subtleties can pile up to become a major act of discrimination, this viewpoint is something I never thought of, yet once the argument was laid out it made sense. In reflecting on this new idea of racism as the backdrop of everyday life, I started to realize that I have seen this type of racism though ignorance time after time. There have been multiple times in my life when I, as a young white woman, received more or higher quality service than a friend who is part of a minority. One experience I didn’t really give much thought until reading this article was the way I am treated when I go clothing shopping with a group of all white friends versus shopping with a more diverse group of friends. When I have been with a group of girls who are all white I have found customer service workers more than willing to help me pick out items and even go out of their way to help me find what I am looking for. While if I am shopping with a more diverse group I often have to go find help versus them just approaching me. This has been especially true when shopping in higher end stores, I never really gave it a second thought though. By reading this blog I was able to reshape the way I look at my everyday interactions to uncover subtle moments of “routine” racism. The reflection that came with reading this post really was important in changing the way I think of and look for racism. Nice Job! Truly a post that makes the reader think!

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