Memories (Racism in the workplace)
Like most second-generation immigrant families I knew, my family owned their own business. Predictably for a Chinese family, we owned a takeaway.
My parents ran this business for almost two decades, initially as a partnership and then just themselves with my two brothers and I helping at the weekends. Growing up in this inter-generational workplace was fun, hard work, stressful and taught me a lot about the importance of sacrifice, family and about people. My parents worked hard long hours, 6 days a week, and on their day off dedicated their time to their children. Mum was front of house and my dad was chef, creating all the lovely smells and tastes at the back.
At work they took time to connect with their patrons and regarded many as friends. When it was time to say goodbye, many were saddened of their retirement and their departure, a reflection of their impact on the community.
Of course, it wasn’t always a bed of roses. Being in the location surrounded by readily available alcohol meant we had our fair share of “over-excited” customers who liked mixing their beer with cheap shots of prejudice.
In the main these would be ignored but one remained with me till this day. I can’t quite remember exactly how old I was, in my mid-teens perhaps around 15, when I first witnessed and experienced a clear sign of racism and hatred directed at my mum.
My mum and I worked at the front of house and had been serving a man who was trying his best to antagonise with remarks of stereotypes and name calling. My mum remained calm and ignored him, which seemed to anger him more. When leaving he picked up a vinegar bottle and threw it, hitting my mum’s head whilst yelling
You “F&c9ing [email protected]”.
Obviously shocked, we checked there were no serious injury and gathered ourselves, whilst other customers leapt to our aid and ushered him out.
After the event, our family obviously had anger towards the incident, shared anxiety about whether it would happen again and even humour since the man howled “F&c9ing [email protected]” whilst being inside a Chinese Takeaway! We surely must all look the same.
24 years later, I have not forgotten the event, I cannot forget the first time, experiencing and witnessing such hostility to someone who was so important to me and to know it occurred at their place of work. A place where they are at everyday.
Whether your role is a football player, teacher, running a department or serving food, no one should work with anxiety and fear of harassment.
You may read this and fail to see how this type of experience, especially given the physicality of it is relevant to perhaps your work. I would hope you are not experiencing such vile racism. However there are many parallels as it’s sad to know that harassment, bullying, exclusion in workplaces exists. Many microaggressions result in major impact for the one it is directed to. They might involve a colleague, a manager or a client. Just because they don’t always use a vinegar bottle it doesn’t make these experiences any less harmful.
My mum did not deserve this treatment for doing her job – NO ONE should
CandidateX is on a mission to share the lived experiences of our members, so that we may understand its impact and the work required on creating a future where these things don’t happen.
With engagement and understanding we can ensure that everyone can go do their roles without fear or anxiety. Do not let ignorance win.
Add your voice to strengthen ours. Together we can.