Anti-Racism in Supervision and Management: An Organizational and Systems Approach

Written by Danielle Hamner, MSW

Racial trauma is defined as ongoing exposure to racism, racist bias, discrimination, and violence against people of color. While currently not listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) its effects have been known to create depression and anxiety, which have led to mistrust and fear of judgment. Anti-Racism is an ideology that challenges opposing races by shaping an understanding of the imbalance of personal, and structural inequalities. These imbalances include microaggressions, racial bias, profiling, and institutional racism. The basis of this article will discuss a work environment culture.

Microaggressions are everyday subtle, and slights based on assumptions. Created by Dr. Derald Wing Sue, these occurrences can happen in the workplace, school setting, or through daily interactions. An example is saying to a  person of color that they are" so articulate" when they speak. A case of racial biases includes lacking the promotion of a person of color in upper management, although one is qualified for the position. Racial profiling makes a presumption based on one’s background. Believing a person of color has stolen office supplies when they have gone missing is such an instance.

The concept of Institutional racism was founded by Stokey Carmichael who would later become Kwame Ture and Political Scientist Charles Hamilton. Based on the book "Black Power: The Politics of Liberation" in 1967. It describes societal patterns and structures that impose oppressive or otherwise negative conditions on identifiable groups based on race or ethnicity. Oppression may come from business, the government, the health care system, schools, and the courts.

These notions can impact the dynamics of a supervisor and supervisee relationship. Failing to acknowledge when a  supervisee has been discriminated against becomes problematic in this trusting relationship. Lacking the ability to have uncomfortable racial relational conversations in supervision also become difficult. These instances seek to perpetuate the replay of the minimization which often has been a daily occurrence by some. Training is imperative as it allows organizations to shift their systematic breakdowns. Another way to combat anti-racism in the workplace is to become an ally. The following are ways to initiate such change:

  1. Challenging your perspective.
  2. Acknowledging your privilege, and biases.
  3. Becoming aware of the system of oppression.
  4. Encouraging and initiating open dialogue during supervision.
  5. Engaging in diversity committees or creating your own.

Please join me for an upcoming live online training to further discuss these in depth! 

Published June 10, 2022

Black woman with elbow on desk and resting her head in her hands looking unhappy.

Image by AHOUNOU Samuel from Pixabay