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How People of Colour Participate in White Supremacy in Corporate Canada

Written by: jkm

I have worked for a number of corporations, who refer to themselves as “Equal Opportunity Employers”. Equal opportunity employer is an easy claim to make just like “everyone is equal in the eyes of the law” or the more recent corporate show of support for Black Lives Matter. In Corporate Canada, companies measure what they care about. There are no measurements for equal opportunity employment. There are no Board committees to audit the claim, no CEO, Vice President or Director has it as a part of his employment contract; no manager or line staff has ever been asked to measure the objective to being an equal opportunity employer. It is not a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). In other words, the claim of being an equal opportunity employer has no financial impact on anyone in the corporation. Therefore, no one measures it and no one practices it.

Even though, no one measures it and no one practices it, that does not mean that the claim of being an equal opportunity employer is not impactful for some individuals. For white people in corporate Canada, when a company claims to be an equal opportunity employer, they assume that the company has some kind of program to give preference to Black applicants. Any Black person who works for the company is there to show that the company has a diversity program and to show that the company is an equal opportunity employer. The other part of that assumption by white people is that the Black employee is unqualified and is therefore getting a free ride based on the color of his skin. This assumption makes it very challenging for a Black employee to work his way up the ranks. If it is assumed that the employee is there because of diversity then there is no need for career planning and to considered him for higher level positions. The way a Black person gets increasing responsibility in corporate Canada is to jump from company to company.

Black people are not the only ones who are impacted by the term equal opportunity employer. There are groups of people who care very much about the statement because that is how they got their start in corporate Canada. Those groups would be people of color, in this case East Indians and Asian people. These two groups of people have used the equal opportunity employer statement to their advantage and they have done so without the stigma of a free ride and without anyone questioning their hiring practices. In western Canada, I have worked in corporation where the manager is East Indian and everyone working on his team is East Indian. I have worked in corporation where the manager is Asian and everyone working on her team is Asian. I have even witnessed one team where the manager was Spanish (from Venezuela) and everyone on his team was also Spanish. Of course, if you are a Black person and you grew up in a white supremacy space or you were brought up on Martin Luther King Jr’s dream, then you think that a company with a statement of being an equal opportunity employer would have a policy of basing its employment on qualifications rather than on skin color or cultural orientation. I have worked in corporate Canada for decades and I have never been interviewed by anyone who looks like me or had the same cultural orientation as me. As a manager, I always posted any role that I was hiring for and hired the best candidate in the interview. In that process, I have never interview anyone who looked like me or share my cultural background. So, I am in awe that in a company with a fair employment policy, teams like those of the East Indian managers or the Asian managers could be constructed. The first question to ask is whether those teams show bias?

No corporation, public or private, measures its claim of being an equal opportunity employer. Ask any corporation to demonstrate their claim and they would not know how to begin. That is because the statement does not indicate a policy. It is not something the corporation has procedures around and measures. If they measured, they would find that East Indians and Asians are overweighted in the employee population compared to the general population. That is not because they are any more qualified than Black or white people. It is because these two groups of people of color are shareholders in white supremacy, with all the rights and privileges of any white person.

Before jumping to a conclusion, let’s ask the question could these teams have been constructed randomly? That is, if we put the names of everyone in Alberta, for example, who qualify for a given role in a hat and randomly pull out one name, what is the probability that that name would belong to a Black person, or a person of color like an East Indian or Asian? The probability is not 100%. There is no guarantee that it will be a Black person or someone from one of the coloured groups. The coloured groups in Canada constitute about 8% of Canada’s population. So, statistics would indicate, assuming a normal distribution of qualifications, that coloured groups: East Indians and Asians should constitute no more than 8% of the corporate population. So how could an East Indian manager or an Asian manager construct a team that is exclusively East Indian or Asian. In corporate Canada there are procedures designed to preserve white supremacy and to transfer its benefits to its shareholders. The coloured groups: East Indian and Asian are able to take advantage of those procedures because they too are shareholders in white supremacy.

Corporate Canada is a white supremacy space. Every job in corporate Canada is meant to go to a shareholder in white supremacy. The procedure or policy that ensures that is that jobs are not publicly advertised. The first time I was fired from corporate Canada I had career counselling. One of the things career counselling pointed out is that the job market is like an iceberg. There is a part you could see and there is a much bigger part you can’t see. The part you can see is the publicly advertised jobs, and the unseen part is the jobs that are still circulating in the white supremacy ecosystem looking for a shareholder who may be interested in the role. Corporate Canada’s white supremacy ecosystem works by word of mouth. The manager with a job asks everyone he knows if they know someone looking for a role. Qualifications as I pointed out previously is secondary. One of my white colleagues had said to me: “if they are taking about your qualifications, you are not a part of the game”. What he meant is that you are not a part of the white supremacy ecosystem. Even the career counselling coach indicated as much. He said that in looking for a job, “it is not what you know, it is who you know that counts”. Those were comments about the white supremacy job ecosystem. You have to be a shareholder in white supremacy to participate in that ecosystem. The coloured groups: East Indians and Asians are allowed to participate.

It is not an overstatement to say that East Indians and Asians are shareholders in white supremacy. White Supremacy was not built on them, on the destruction of their civilization, it was built on the oppression and destruction of Black people. East Indians and Asians are able to construct teams of only East Indians or Asians precisely because they are shareholders and are also entitled to the residual value of white supremacy. These coloured managers similar to their white counterparts do not advertise their jobs. Their jobs never become a part of the job market that can be seen. They find all of their candidates in the “who you know” segment of the market. Even so, if their hiring practices were fair, their teams would reflect a cross section of the white supremacy’s job ecosystem. Fairness and justice are not features of white supremacy and their teams reflect it. An all East Indian team or an all Asian team reflects more than just the prejudice of the East Indian or Asian manager. The jobs they are looking to fill are a part of the iceberg that cannot be seem. They are in the white supremacy ecosystem looking for a shareholder but their jobs are not marketed to white shareholders in the ecosystem. There are parts of the iceberg that the average white shareholder does not participate in. The white shareholder can be defined as a “common shareholder” and the East Indian and Asian could be thought of as “preferred shareholders” because East Indians and Asians have their own sub ecosystem within the larger white supremacy’s job ecosystem. The sub ecosystem was designed to capture jobs from the larger white supremacy system for their people. The East Indian and Asian managers only market their jobs to other East Indians or Asians. Those sub segments were allowed to develop because these coloured groups took advantage of the ideas around equal opportunity employment, something that Black people, who are not shareholders, fought for. Hiring these coloured groups were the initial reaction to the claim that corporate Canada is “so white”. These coloured groups met the definition for diversity. They could be used to show that an equal opportunity employer was reaching communities outside of the white communities, which was the initial reaction to racism in corporate Canada.