“You have a unique surname ‘Lashkari’. Which community do you belong to?”
“I’m from the Agrawal community.”
“Oh, it means you’re a Baniya? You people are the biggest misers on this planet.”
“And why do you think so?”
“Come on. Everyone says that. Baniya’s can’t spend their money on anything. There are jokes, memes, stories and incidents around your community and about your world-famous misery skills.”
My friend judged me based on a few stereotypes. But it was not his fault alone. He considered me a miser, a money-grubber because people have strengthened this perception over the years — Baniya community hoards wealth and spends as little money as possible. We’re surrounded by stereotypes, biases and perceptions from all sides, aren’t we?
“Look at her coming back home at 10 o’clock with her boyfriend. How characterless is she?”. “He is Muslim. Shh! He might have some connection to a terrorist group or someone back in Pakistan”. “She is a single mom. Maybe you can try on her if she is open to a casual relationship”.
While talking to people, our prejudice kicks in and it is reflected in our negative attitude while talking to a particular person instead of considering their characteristics.
Things get worse when people carry these perceptions, stereotypes and biases at workplaces too. They start acting in front of their colleagues, subordinates and team members according to how they hold a stereotype.
Inappropriate comments → Vulgar remarks → Bullying → Workplace harassment.
Sometimes, the situation becomes worse when people take these misperceptions to board room meetings or interview rooms as well. Hiring managers and recruiters apply stereotypes and discriminate candidates based on sex, age and race.
To reduce and gradually eliminate workplace harassment, we will have to work together to avoid any misperceptions around caste, creed, gender, sex, colour or any other characteristic. Muslims are not terrorists. Men are not dogs. Girls are not open treasure. When you talk to anyone, speak to the “human” inside them. Let’s make this planet a better place to live.