Is this comment racist?

Hi all, I have recently had a case where a female individual allegedly made a comment that an Egyptian male spoke down to her like ‘a typical Arab man’. We cannot find any evidence of this comment being made, the female suggests she did not make such a comment. However, my question is, is this comment racist?

  • I have read something similar to this that the ET concluded that it was profiling/stereotyping but in this case there was an evidence.
  • Did the ET conclude that it was a racist comment?
  • I'm not sure how this could be classed as ok? I think the definition of whether it is racist or not is irrelevant, is it appropriate? I would suggest it is clearly prejudiced and not reasonable or helpful language to be using in a professional setting.
    That being said, I would take into account the context of who it was said to and how. If it was said to the Egyptian male themselves or to a co-worker when ranting, I can't see how it would be appropriate. If it was said in the context of identifying different cultural norms within the business and asking someone for support on how to work with these while still achieving the required outcome....it would be different and maybe a bit of coaching on what is appropriate (and, clearly, who to confide in given it's caused upset)
  • The term "racist" isn't really one that's helpful in our line of work. The question is not whether it was racist but whether it represented discrimination or harassment.

    For it to be discrimination, the target would have to suffer or anticipate that they would suffer some form of detriment (which may include hurt feelings) as a result. For it to be harassment, they would have to feel that it created a hostile, intimidating, degrading or offensive working environment.

    I can imagine that such a phrase would potentially cause detriment and create a hostile and/or degrading environment. However, we also have the opportunity to take into account other factors, such as a person pushing back against what they may have perceived as sexual discrimination or harassment - fighting fire with fire, as it were. Not that we encourage such things, but we can certainly choose to take them into account when advising those who are deciding whether such conduct merits informal or formal sanction.
  • "Allegedly", is not really evidence of racism and neither is 'talking down', to someone. Isn't this comparable as someone making remarks about the alleged thriftiness of a Scotsman/woman?

    Some languages have different norms than ours. For example I've had to defend Spanish natives because, I've heard English speakers complain, "the Spanish are rude because they don't say please and thank you often". when asking for things and or receiving things. Spanish people along with many other languages do not say please or thank you anywhere near as much as we do. That does not make them rude.

    In this case if what was said and how it was said was the norm then it was an objective comment and perhaps shouldn't be classed as having any racist overtones.
  • We haven’t got there yet as we are still in the internal process
  • It’s not ok at all but in the context of whether or not the comment is racist it seems that it’s open to interpretation. My view, after some research and further understanding, is that it is inappropriate but not racist and seems to be more racial profiling and stereotyping
  • Even if the person making the comment didn't intend it to be racist, it could still have a negative impact on others, particularly those of Arab descent who may feel unfairly judged or marginalized by such remarks.
  • Any sentence that includes "you are like a typical..." fill in the blank, is stereotyping and treating everyone with a particular characteristic as being the same. Depending on what is in the "blank" could be racist, but as a minimum is offensive and disrespectful, and not the kind of attitude that you would want in your organisation.

    With another hat on, I am an internal investigator, so if there is a complaint, there must be a decision as to whether you think it more likely than not that it was said, and why. "There were no witnesses, so we don't know" is likely to lose you the case at ET.

    I had a case like this, and, using previous behaviours of both, I came to conclusions about a number of 1:1 meetings and my conclusions were upheld after appeal.
  • In reply to Nick:

    I'm intrigued, why is it important to establish whether or not it is racist? Will this have an impact on the disciplinary policy in terms of misconduct vs gross misconduct or similar?
  • I think at this stage I'd just have a quiet word with the alleged perpetrator and just say something along the lines of "I was told/heard you made such and such a remark" and I don't really know wether you did but can I just remind you that those sort of remarks may well upset some people......"
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    9 Apr, 2024 07:07

    In reply to Daniel :

    Helpful link. Thanks,