A UK worker has described their experience of consistent Islamophobic abuse, in a revealing portrayal of racism in social care.
The anonymous social worker, described how they would repeatedly face abuse from both care users and colleagues, describing how one co-worker called them “Mr Taliban” and an individual needing support called them a “Bin Laden social worker” through email.
The practitioner, who wrote about their experiences in an article on CommunityCare, a job search and news website for social workers, also describes a situation where they were asked by another social worker to switch on their camera during a Microsoft Teams call, saying ‘We already know you look like a terrorist’ and a time when a manager mocked them for “having an imaginary friend” in response to them attending mosque.
Yet, the employee doesn’t see these events as one-off occurrences, but attributes them to systemic racism in the UK, especially within the social work sector. “After more than 10 years in the profession, I realise my experiences are not isolated but a reflection of deeply rooted Islamophobia in Britain, including in social work,” the employee explains.
Tackling racism in the workplace
Dismantling racism can seem daunting, but the first step is creating a workspace that enables employees to openly speak about their experiences, and report any incidents, without fear of repercussions or judgement.
The CIPD calls these ‘psychologically safe’ spaces and explains that it’s important for managers to take employee concerns seriously and ensure they do something about it, even if it is a small action. The CIPD also says that manager’s creating a culture free of ‘microaggressions’ is important in dismantling racism in the workplace.
Their website explains: “Microaggressions are subtle comments and behaviours that indicate to someone that the person speaking thinks they don't belong, such as asking someone who has an ethnic minority background and who has lived in the UK all of their life where they are really from. Your role as a manager is to notice when microaggressions take place and address them.
“You should listen, acknowledge and take action if someone comes to you as the victim of microaggressions. The aim is to create a culture where all are educated enough to understand what microaggressions look like and address them if they take place.”