Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Race and Inclusion – the unconscious habit – Series 2 of 2

Oooh, Uganda! May God Uphold Thee…!!

We ended series one of this blog, wailing to God our Lord, to uphold Uganda, laying our future in thy hand and hoping that as a people we remain free and united. Indeed – the latter are words from Uganda’s national anthem. But things aren’t always what we wish them to be. As discussed in series one, there is racism.  Racism and racists are wicked.  Racism destroys humans and relations. Racism undermines all the good in society.

Racism can be both direct and indirect. Direct racism is there for us all to witness.  Indirect racism is mostly under the radar and done from the unconscious part of our souls. Indirect racists are racist out of taught habit. They may not even realise what they are doing is wrong. They have been trained and ‘programmed’ that way. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, of course, it’s wrong, but that is what it is

“The unconscious racist:  Cancer that is also a driver of racial bias and disharmony, albeit, mostly off the radar. It’s an unconscious habit, bred in those that carry it; a habit propelled by years of systemic biases. The acrobatics of race and racism, we call it.  It’s easy to miss.  It’s subtle and unconscious – this type of racist throws racism at others, but mostly unawares. It’s done without always realising they are at it. It becomes a habit and automatic – it’s deep in them; learnt and passed on from and to future generations.”

And it’s this indirect, at times unconscious racist, that is the focus of this blog.

It’s the unconscious racist that we don’t want you to forget in this racial discourse.

We, below, share real-life examples of indirect and we hope, unconscious racism, that we have experienced as sojourners:

  • As students in the West, it wasn’t unusual to get questions like, from innocent youth like we were then: do you sleep on trees in Africa?
  • A boss, once asked me if the people that were attacking me ‘unfairly’ at work were doing so because I was black; the boss pondered over the thought (and fact) that if I were white (and I was and still is black) there would be no issues with my office and person – to which I responded in the affirmative.
  • While in a certain senior job, some people struggled to place someone black like my person in the chair they were seated. In one specific instance, someone, and well educated, travelled and we thought exposed, entered my office and made a comment, innocently at that, we hope and we quote: “…they have never before appointed an African to this office, how …did you get here..?”
  • Another one right in between direct and indirect racism: we have conducted interviews with all black and at times brown panels; and in one case, when the interviewee (not a person of colour), was passed on to a higher panel, they intimated that our panel (supposedly black and inferior) wasn’t up to it.  Sadly, within the institution, we acquiesced in the opinion of a clearly racist individual, without asking the right questions of them and ourselves.  Again, you have unconscious racism at play here and unknowingly, augmenting unequal race and power structures as well as perception in society.
  • We were privy to a conversation going on amongst a certain group of human beings that aren’t #black – where one of their own had appointed someone black into a very senior role. And one of them raised concern that blacks, who were their servants in the past, were ascending the corporate ladder and soon would be privy to the top and mighty.  In effect, they were blasting the other person for letting the clan down and appointing blacks to senior roles. They just believed – and this may have been passed on to them from their forefathers/mothers, that black lives don’t matter
  • Finally, and still, on our travels, we have also witnessed individuals that have had issues reporting to a black person – the boss was black and they, not; after all, blacks can’t be good enough. The reason this person felt uncomfortable reporting to a black person was the unconscious bias that they couldn’t report to a lesser race. That is how they were taught and programmed to perceive blacks

Do you want more examples?

“Blacks are doubted first and have to prove their worth before achieving their weight on the race-scale. The latter is akin to the legal and perfectly acceptable “innocent till proven guilty” only that this is the flipped version – “guilty of being a lesser human being, till you prove otherwise.”  Aren’t you familiar with this kind of treatment?”

As we conclude this blog, we have to ask why people are racist, direct or indirectly? Remember that for all intents and purposes, these people work for organisations or are part of groups of people that have clear guidelines, divine and not, on racism. Indeed, some have guidance from houses of worship, be it a Church, Mosque, Temple, etc. Others have guidance from the nation-states and organisation rules and procedures.

Yet, racism abounds.  All the above examples, real life, are mostly caused by ‘brain-programming’ and perception. These people weren’t born racist, of whatever type. Indeed, the majority, if not all of them, are nice and warm human beings.  They only have the wrong version of the software. Unfortunately, they have cancer eating them unawares. The society and the organisations they work for are harbouring individuals that are a danger to their very existence.

So, even as we deal with the core and direct racist, can we also pay attention to the unconscious racist? The latter is a low hanging fruit and if gotten, will deny the core racist oxygen

Are you an unconscious racist?


2 responses to “Race and Inclusion – the unconscious habit – Series 2 of 2”

  1. Great piece. What if we looked at race or its called tribalism within the same nation. Take example of Uganda. This can bring up almost similar attributes.


    1. Agree African – with all its sensibilities….


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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