Tackling racism: behaviours to avoid

In addition to the contents of the Tackling racism in the workplace guidance,  we have produced this list of behaviours to avoid to support employers.

In each case we've highlighted the behaviour to avoid, and provided examples of the type of things people might say or do.


Deciding what the severity and extent is based on majority/dominant group’s interpretation rather than on the experience of those directly affected by it.  Terms like micro-aggressions, unconscious bias can also play into this narrative by rationalising/excusing/justifying behaviour. “It’s not as bad as you think it is. I am sure it will be sorted.” 


“There are so many things needing our attention right now. So many forms of discrimination.” 


"We haven’t forgotten you. We’ll get round to it when we have time.” 


“It’s not how you say it is. I don’t believe this is happening. We have a bigger problem. It’s not all about… I was speaking to a colleague & they were telling me about… we need to focus on that too. That data is all wrong." 


Not acknowledging emotions or emotional impact. Forgetting about the people at the centre of it all. Intent on proving a point, intellectualisation, process at the cost of people. Hitting a target and missing the point. 


Actually this is what it’s about. I think… (interpretation of somebody who has never faced that discrimination/inequality.) 


"This never happened. It’s not an issue at all. You have got it wrong. Actually (subtext or explicit) you are the problem. There’s something wrong with you. There’s no evidence. Can you prove if happened? Attaching conditions to addressing inequalities." 


"There are other things more important. Let’s sort those out we’ll look into this."


  • “You have stirred things up.”
  • “Tone down.”
  • “Don’t be difficult.”
  • “You have made this too complicated.”
  • “If you had done/not done this/that we wouldn’t be here today. (insert anything like passed exams/worked harder/acculturated/not worn provocative clothes etc.) 


Fudging the main issue, badging it with others. "Let’s talk about this too. All of it is linked. Let’s get that right/understand that and then we can look at your issue again." 


  • "They are not really like that."
  • "It’s unintentional/unconscious."
  • "They don’t mean to do it."
  • "It’s because the process was not clear."
  • "It was not explained fully to me."
  • "It’s nothing to do with not agreeing with you or not liking you." 


"I am not like that at all. I have … friends, I really like them, I love their food, I went on holiday there once it was lovely, I really like you. It’s not about you.” 


Pretend nothing happened, nothing to discuss. Not responding to messages, questions, not raising it in appropriate forums as requested. Deliberating blanking. 


Seek to alienate and isolate the person raising issue by claiming all their friends or colleagues in similar situations have a different view, creating in-groups/out groups, othering, not enabling them to be part of networks, not fostering a sense of belonging. 


If you stall and preserve status quo long enough, people will get exhausted & drop the subject. Leaving it to people most affected to do all the hard work & bear the burden of changing things in the hope it will fail. 


Targeting those who are engaged in addressing inequalities or who raise issues or stand as an ally. Bullying, harassing, shaming them, ganging up against them.


"If we do this that may happen too. They may take our jobs/roles/privileges…. We are going down a slippery slope." 


A key part of discrimination is using language which does all of the above things. 


Trying to preserve privilege in different ways. “We have always done it this way, this is too messy, we have worked hard for this we can’t dilute it, our people are suffering already don’t bring others in.” 





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