Discrimination targeting racialized minorities has a long history in Canada. Over the past four decades, researchers have directed attention to analyzing the phenomenon of racism in Canadian workplaces to propose solutions. However, what is missing from these analyses is an exploration of how research participants, i.e. racialized individuals, would have addressed racism if they had the powers and resources to act upon their wish.
To address this gap, this presentation would discuss the use of counterfactuals in a qualitative investigation of participant-proposed solutions to employment racism. More specifically, analyses that would be presented are underpinned by responses to a speculative question posed to participants who had lived experiences with racial discrimination in their workplace, or the primary site for establishing and maintaining white dominance. The specific question is:
If you were given all the powers, resources and authorities needed to more effectively address the issue of racial discrimination in your workplace, what would you do?
The guiding idea for posing this question was that if workplaces are to respond effectively to racial discrimination in their midst, racialized workers ought to play a key role in identifying issues and proposing solutions.
Twenty-five racialized public servants in British Columbia, Canada, took part in this qualitative inquiry. Participants were recruited on the basis of reporting lived experiences with workplace racial discrimination and their insights were collected through in-depth interviews in response to the afore-mentioned speculative question. Using a semi-structured guide, the interviews lasted between one and three and a half hours. After administering an informed consent, interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim before they were analysed using the hermeneutic circle, from hermeneutic phenomenology. This involved multiple naïve readings of the transcripts, coding to structurally organize the analysis and identifying analytical sub-themes after locating and condensing meaning units.
The findings of this study would be presented in form of the three sub-themes that emerged from data analysis: 1- demanding accountability, 2- reforming systems, and, 3- enhancing interracial dialogues. It will be argued that collectively these sub-themes offer useful insights – to social work practitioners, educators and policymakers alike – on how to stomp out, or reduce it at the very least, the specter of racism in their workplaces and beyond.
Conclusions and Implications:
In addition to presenting a counter factual study, the presentation will also introduce speculative anti-racism as a framework that outlines additional possibilities for resistance, contestation and liberation at work. Speculative anti-racism in this context aims to offer the discursive and political power to participants in order to disrupt the practice of experts and academic knowledge-producers providing descriptive and prescriptive analyses for workplace anti-racism. The guiding principle behind the design of this study is that if workplaces are to respond effectively to racial discrimination in their midst, racialized workers ought to play a key role in identifying racist issues and proposing anti-racist solutions. Thus, a reformulation of anti-racism in social work grounded on speculative anti-racism could better assist practitioners, educators and policymakers in responding to workplace racism.