Updated: 10 hours ago
Author: Marveille Madada
Date of Publication: 07/06/2023
A diverse workforce filled with culture brings a lot of advantages. It reviews how communities live, and work. What’s more, the variety of viewpoints and knowledge that colleagues provide, allows others to learn from them. Also, appreciating one another's unique qualities is often the key to a happy, productive, and equitable work environment.
But all of that changes when a certain cultural standard has become a norm at a company. Well, this actually happens more often than you think. BICOP people have mostly been victims of the white gaze for many years. Mostly because the dominant norm is based on Eurocentric standards.
This can lead to a bad work culture, decreased productivity, and an uncomfortable atmosphere. Obviously, that needs to change for the better. But as James Baldwin once said: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” This has to do with a deeper understanding of what the term means, and its influence.
What Is the impact of White Gaze at work?
American novelist Toni Morrison came up with the term. It refers to how white people's ideas and experiences impact non-white people. Simply said, because of white ethnocentrism, "the white gaze" stifles other people's ability to express themselves culturally. This means encouraging people to adopt white-centered norms and standards.
For instance, because of the white gaze, black people often believe that "presentation = acceptance,". Non-white people peacock, intentionally or not, to win over their white counterparts. Consider the lengths to which they would go to be accepted and treated equally in a culture dominated by the white gaze. The way a person dresses and speaks conveys a statement about how that person wants to be seen.
Impact Within The Business
The business world has changed a lot. Globalization has increased immensely throughout the years. While economics seems to be where the term "globalization" is used, it has political and cultural repercussions as well. That cultural repercussion includes the creation of accepted values and information. Different people and groups may identify this. It results in more communication and understanding amongst people of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. The white gaze, however, contradicts that.
For example, some workplaces have criticized people of color's appearance for professionalism and meticulous standards. This has been pointed out numerous times. But a few firms try to review their ways. An examination of the company's rules might show discriminatory practices that affect workers of color.
Impact of Eurocentric Norm
For instance, black workers may face hair discrimination due to the stereotype that their unstyled natural hair is unprofessional. Many companies have nebulous standards for personal presentation. Based on the false premise that one uniform level of professionalism applies to everyone. Having a uniform that accommodates staff with thicker and coarser hair helps foster a welcoming environment.
Since most business regulations and procedures are designed with a white employee in mind, it's easy to miss these differences. This is why knowing how the white gaze manifests is crucial for building
an equitable society and workplace.
How to Handle White Gaze?
First, I would say that the first step to unlearning the white gaze would start with yourself. I am not saying that giving or receiving professional criticism is wrong. It’s when you judge someone for not fitting in the quota that you are familiar with, that’s where the problem lies.
Especially, if that same quota is not made with everyone from different cultural backgrounds in mind. Once you identify that, the next step would be to try to unbind yourself from the white gaze. I wouldn’t say there is a cure to get rid of the white gaze, but you can work on it.
● Someone’s comment doesn’t sit well with you? Speak up and tell them why.
● Try to speak your mind and express yourself without having doubts.
● Try to be more accepting of who you truly are. Or of how others live.
● Remember that stereotypes don’t shape or make a person.
● Listen to other perspectives and try to be understanding.
● Look things beyond the labels and treat others as you would like to be treated.
Obviously, the white gaze won’t be gone overnight. This takes time, for some longer than others. As long as you are willing to change your way of thinking and educate yourself on this. Before you know it, the white gaze has scattered away.
How to Handle White Gaze at Work
Companies can start reducing the white gaze by surveying workers or having conversations about workplace perceptions. By having courageous dialogues, we may learn about the perspectives of all employees and the challenges they face on the job. This helps businesses in identifying their own institutionalized white privilege-promoting white gaze-appeasing actions.
Recognizing our personal involvement in perpetuating white workplace supremacy is essential for de-emphasizing it. Assessing our own actions and accepting how we have hurt others is harder. This raises the issue of whether we are actively or unwittingly encouraging a white-dominated workplace.
Are we unaware that white people's biases, beliefs, and norms hurt others? Do we promote whiteness by being silent? We cannot accept responsibility or promote workplace equality unless we actively engage in self-reflection.
In short, the white gaze confines BIPOC people in a cage. It might be a hard pill to swallow, but this is the reality that we’ve been living in. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep on living like that. Even though it can be difficult for some of us, there is always a place for change.
That starts with you and your way of thinking. Once you unshackle yourself from that gaze, and find your own voice, you’ll start appreciating yourself without any remorse. And believe me when I say that that is the best feeling ever. As Ms. Morrisons once said: “The little white man that sits on your shoulder and checks out everything you do or say. You sort of knock him off and you’re free.”