Asking Hospitality Students to Reflect and Write on Racism in our Industry

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This semester I asked my 4th year Leadership students to reflect and write on racism in our industry. I’ll be posting a few of their works in the next few months. Here is the first.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable
Written by: A. Daigle

As a non-BIPOC, a grim and disturbing light has been shed on the issues revolving around systemic racism in the hospitality industry. As information was appearing, so was the high level of ignorance and privilege that was never noted before. The deep dive into the problems occurring, not only in Canada but across the world, created a strong feeling of
embarrassment and anger. Even after the research is complete and the feelings are felt, the issue is still there and simply being aware of systemic racism will not make it disappear.

But it is the first step.

It does not take much time and effort to discover examples of systemic racism in the industry. It also does not take much time and effort to see that eliminating racism within hospitality is important for making it more sustainable and profitable. Ideally, if we could start from scratch and rewrite the system, we could create a more inclusive and safe industry for
people to work in. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The elimination of racism is a step by step process that requires a lot of conversations, a lot of actions, and a lot of effort (especially
by non-BIPOC). These conversations are often avoided because people don’t want to challenge their own beliefs and get uncomfortable. Systemic racism is created by non-BIPOC and it is time for them to be challenged and held accountable.

So, let’s get uncomfortable.

One of the most crucial things that a non-BIPOC can do to acknowledge the presence of systemic racism is to realize their own privilege. The article by Peggy McIntosh (1) discusses some of the daily effects of her privilege and she lists 50 examples this privilege. Some examples include:

  1. “I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.”
  2. “I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.”
  3. “I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.”
  4. “I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.”
  5. “My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.”
  6. “If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.”
    These are some of the privileges that can relate to the hospitality industry. While we do see a large number of BIPOC working in hospitality, we fail to see decent representation if BIPOC in executive roles and upper management. Statistics reported by the Castell Project (2)
    stated that while 1 in every 5 people working in hospitality are Black, only 1.5% of hospitality executives and less than 1% of CEO/Presidents or Directors are Black.
    Without realizing and acknowledging our privilege, we will simply be following and contributing to the system that is in place. Keeping non-BIPOC oblivious to the idea of systemic racism and the power that they hold will further ensure that the power remains in the hands of
    non-BIPOC. Basically, if they are not aware of the problem, they do not know that it needs to be fixed and their actions end up furthering the issue. Non-BIPOC have advanced standing within the system, even if they still have to work hard to achieve their standing, and they are able to
    benefit more from the system because it is designed that way.
    The benefits resulting from eliminating systemic racism within the hospitality industry should be obvious. It should go without saying that when you take care of your employees, they will be more inclined to take care of your business and its customers. The basic foundation of taking care of your employees is treating them as a human and showing them respect and trust. Everything about systemic racism takes away this basic treatment and results in resentment, anger, fear, and disgust. Every person deserves to feel safe and wanted at their workplace. This starts before a person is even hired at a company.
    Restaurants Canada (3)outlines excellent ways to create a positive and inclusive workplace within the hospitality industry. They discuss how building a culture that revolves around inclusion starts with being transparent about vision and goals, appreciate and recognize
    employees, encouraging collaboration and communication, and understanding that a company’s biggest asset is their people.
    Employers need to ensure that job positions are posted in multiple
    locations to increase the number of potential applicants and seek people who fit the company culture instead of just looking at their skills. This is especially important for positions that are considered entry-level and do not require high amounts of skill. Companies should be actively
    recruiting and developing ethnically diverse people and frequently monitoring their own biases and inclusion efforts. Employers should be mindful of where they are operating and understand the access barriers of their own company. There is a vast amount of potential within the BIPOC group and it is a poor business choice to ignore or prevent them from showing their abilities.
    The unfortunate thing about being a non-BIPOC is that there is a high chance of being naïve to the unfair hardships of BIPOC. Being unaware of the issues makes you part of the problem and is just as bad as being silent. Technology today has made human connection very
    easy to achieve, so there is no reason why someone shouldn’t realize what is happening. This is the time to read articles and watch videos explaining the systemic racism in hospitality and know the facts behind what is happening. This is the time to have conversations with BIPOC and learn about their story. This is the time for us to stop talking and listen, unlearn and understand our role in the problem. It is not the job of the non-BIPOC to speak for the BIPOC community or offer our opinions on the matter. Our job is to empower, encourage, listen, and make decisions that invoke change within the system. We are to ask questions and disprove our previous notions of racism and ignorance and recreate the system to benefit everyone.
    1 McIntosh, P. (1988). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Retrieved from
    2 Castell Project. (2020). Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2020.
    Retrieved from
    3 Restaurants Canada. (2017). How to Create a Positive & Inclusive Workplace: Laws,
    regulations and best practices for foodservice employers. Retrieved from

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