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How do you approach your boss about racial microaggressions?

Nobody enjoys bringing up the victim of racial discrimination at work, but if you are -- whether it's subtle or overt -- you have a right to address the issue with your employer. You also have the right to expect your employer to take action.

Many people of color experience in the workplace experience micro-aggressions. These are subtle forms of discrimination that leave victims feeling offended and uncomfortable. Victims are often unsure of how to respond.

Here are some examples of micro-aggressions in an office setting:

  • You are asked, "What country are you from?" solely based on your skin tone and Hispanic-sounding name.
  • Your boss tells you, "You're very articulate." As a black person, you know the underlying message is that other people of your race are not as intelligent or well-spoken.
  • Your co-worker, who is white, touches your hair without permission and makes comments about its texture or shape.
  • A co-worker refers to "you people," which generalize the experiences of all people of color.
  • A co-worker makes comments about affirmative action to you or about you, implying that you are only in your position due to your race -- not your actual skill set.
  • Co-workers make comments about your children's "baby daddy" instead of assuming that you are or were married to their father.

Your boss may be open to the idea of some anti-discrimination training. However, it's possible that your concerns will be dismissed. It's smart to keep a record of all of the micro-aggressions you encounter and the contact you make with your employer or human resources department -- just in case you ultimately have to resort to some sort of formal legal action.

Racial discrimination is never acceptable -- no matter how subtle. You have the right to speak up against it in the workplace.

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