Changing Perspectives: Combating unintentional racism is everyone’s responsibility

Dorothy Tang
By Dorothy Tang | 4 April 2024
Dorothy Tang.

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

My name is Dorothy Tang, most of you know me as Dot. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and came to Australia at age 18 to pursue my Bachelor’s degree.

Before you continue reading, I want you to pause and look around the office. How diverse is your team? I’m guessing not very. Because in my experience, I’m a bit of a rarity – a unicorn perhaps, for am I even real?

Be the invisible visible Asian
When I first started out in the media industry, I was shy and scared to share my opinions as I was the only ethnic person in the room. There were moments where I thought, can I just be invisible so no one will make eye contact with me?

I soon realised this was not a sustainable approach, so I pushed myself to step up. I started sharing work updates at team WIPs and bridged the cultural gap by sharing Asian food and other aspects of my culture with colleagues – yes, bribing adults with food works.

This small success prompted me to actively engage in the agency DE&I committee, where I, now the Visible Dot, share cultural insights and foster cultural exchange in the workplace.

Unintentional racism = racism = not okay
We need to stamp out all forms of racism – intentional and unintentional, including microaggressions and casual racism. Let me share my personal experience of this.

At a previous workplace, my manager provided feedback on a presentation I did, telling me I should speak slower because I have an accent. In singling out my accent, the feedback was unintentionally (I hope) racist. This led to days of tears and self-doubt about my professional capabilities. It took two years of consistent practice and a NIDA corporate training course to restore my confidence.

Had the feedback been phrased differently – not singling out my accent and simply suggesting I speak slower in general – I would have never lost the confidence in the first place.

What might seem like a harmless comment to one person can have a huge impact on another. So I encourage us all to do the following to help feed cultural diversity in the media industry:

  1. Maintain an open mind and think twice about how earnest feedback or comments can be construed as unintentionally racist.
  2. If you’re from a culturally diverse background, don’t be invisible. Speak up if you experience feedback or comments that are unintentionally racist – don’t waste the 2.5% of your lifespan that I did.
  3. Every individual should call out racism in the workplace (and beyond) when they witness it.

There are many champions in the industry joining the MFA’s mission to create a media agency industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported and safe to do their best work. Make sure you check other inspiring stories in the Changing Perspectives series.

Dorothy Tang is Diversity Director at Omnicom Media Group 


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