Note from BW of Brazil: While numerous past reports have confirmed the existence of racial discrimination in the job market (professional mobility, hiring, salary, etc) (see here and here, for example), the piece below deals specifically with the existence of moral assault, or bullying, on the job and its connection with racism. Needless to say, in a country where race often equals “place”, there are probably thousands of workers who can relate to these experiences at one time or another.
Institutional racism and moral assault…Is there a difference?
by Patrícia Santos de Jesus
Yes, institutional racism is different from moral assault. Despite being detestable and disgusting practices, both are related to the labor market, but are conceptually different. From what I could observe and from my own experience, institutional racism is the corporate practice composed of the exclusion of blacks from the cadre of professionals from selection to promotion.
It is represented by all forms from the boycott to the professional, social and economic ascension of blacks, always referred to by their skin color. We observe the practice of institutional racism, for example, when comparing the following data:
– The last IBGE census found that there are 191 million Brazilians in total. We blacks are 97 million Brazilians, representing 51% (1). We black women are 47 million and represent 25% of the population:
– In the 500 biggest and best companies, according to Instituto Ethos, of the 624,000 professionals, executives are made up 94.7% of non-blacks (white and Asian) and we blacks represent 5.3%. The situation of black women is even more exclusive: we are 9.3% of the operational and functional positions and 0.5% of executives. In the latter case, in absolute numbers, of 119 executives , only 6 are black women.
The campaign of the Public Minister of (the northeastern state of) Pernambuco brilliantly summarizes the concept: “Institutional Racism is the practice of organizations and institutions impregnated with discriminatory attitudes resulting from prejudice and racial stereotypes.” Since moral assault is usually practiced by the immediate manager who, in the day to day, has negative attitudes and behaviors in order to harass, ridicule, abash, blame and discredit the persons themselves and their peers.
It occurs through screaming, profanity, ironic subtleties or indirect insinuations, always belittling the person (your personal, physical, emotional side) and the work this person carries out. A victim of moral assault usually does not react out of fear of unemployment and shame, according to the website assediomoral.org.
The working group, often times aggravates the situation when it is silent in the face of humiliation, breaks affective ties with the victim, isolation, as if they made a pact of tolerance and silence, because they also have the fear of unemployment and being the next victims. A person who suffers moral assault is destabilized emotionally, has their self-esteem affected and often psychosomatic symptoms such as constant headaches, stomach pain (heartburn or diarrhea), crying spells, insomnia, depression, and in the most critical cases, ideas and attempt of suicide.
Moral assault may accompany racism when, for example, a manager’s feedback comes loaded with racial discrimination: “You negão (big black), you never reach the goal!”, “You think that a black, fat woman like you gets a job easily? Try to meet as I comply with what I tell you, if not you will be fired!”
These are phrases that people have told me that they have heard from their manager. Unfortunately in our society, these problems are identified in the job market much more common than we realize.
1. These numbers are based on the last official census in 2010. Recently, the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) affirmed that the Brazilian population has surpassed the 200 million mark with Afro-Brazilians (pretos/blacks + pardos/browns) passing the 100 million mark.