Advice & Guides
Diversity & Inclusion

Covert Racism: What It Looks Like and How to Tackle the Problem

While it may seem as though the world is moving in a progressive direction, problems such as covert racism are still deeply entrenched within society, preventing true equality from forming. In order to tackle this problem, individuals, communities and workplaces need to become more aware of how to spot the signs, as well as what steps can be put in place to limit its harmful effects.
What Is Covert Racism?

Unlike overt racism, which manifests itself openly through explicit acts of discrimination, covert racism is often difficult to spot, as it hides away within societal structures, behaviours and attitudes. This perpetuates inequality through systemic biases and disparities. Because it is so subtle, covert racism enables perpetrators to deny any responsibility of it, resulting in continuous damage and maintaining the unconscious biases of individuals, communities and companies. These unseen barriers continue to pose a hindrance to the opportunities and well-being of millions across the globe today, including children and young people in foster care.

Examples of Covert Racism

There are various covert racism examples, which range from seemingly innocuous remarks to deeply rooted systemic problems. One of these examples is microaggressions, slights based on race or offhand comments, which instantly remove the sense of belonging that marginalised individuals may have felt. There are also issues where people are often overlooked in society due to implicit biases, which may limit opportunities and resources in a number of areas, including in education, work, housing and even receiving adequate healthcare.

Because covert racism reinforces existing cycles of inequality, it is also extremely detrimental for children and young people in foster care. After all, it places them at greater risk of exposure to microaggressions and harmful stereotypes, condemning them to unfortunate placements where they are not receiving the support they need. Additionally, potential foster carers from marginalised communities are at risk of discrimination throughout the fostering assessment process, which results in a lack of representation within the wider fostering community.


At Compass, we believe in creating an inclusive environment where every child can feel valued and respected.

How Covert Racism Affects the Workplace

Though many workplaces claim to have implemented measures to fight racism, they are not immune to the influences of more covert racism examples. There are a multitude of ways that this affects the workplace, including biases influencing hiring decisions, as well as performance reviews and opportunities for advancement. Rather than dealing with these problems head on, many workplaces suffer from tokenism, hiring a select few individuals from underrepresented groups to create an illusion of diversity. Yet failure to adequately tackle these problems keeps issues like the racial wealth gap alive, maintaining covert racism in the workplace.

Strategies for Combating Covert Racism

Recognising and dealing with covert vs overt racism requires a complex approach that encompasses education, awareness and eventually institutional change.

Implement diversity training and inclusive policies

One of the ways this can be done is through diversity training, which not only should help employees to become aware of their unconscious bias, but also how this affects the workplace and everyday interactions. Workplaces can equally benefit from implementing more inclusive policies, such as blind recruitment processes, in order to further reduce the impact of biases and encourage a diverse hiring practice.

Foster allyship and advocacy

Allyship also plays an important role in combating covert racism, as those from privileged backgrounds can use their position to advocate for underrepresented groups and to challenge systemic inequalities. As a result, marginalised individuals are able to exist within safe spaces, making them more comfortable to call out discrimination and highlight the ways in which unconscious bias is preventing equality and allowing racism to thrive.

Cultivate cultural competency

When it comes to fostering, these problems may be addressed by ensuring that all foster carers possess a clear understanding of what covert racism is. This can be done through cultural competency training, which helps to raise awareness of unconscious biases, while also making sure that any child or young person in care feels like their culture and background are being respected. In addition, children and young people within the care system should also be included in various processes, as their voices and experiences can drastically help to mitigate the effects of covert racism.

Creating a More Inclusive Future

Real change begins with individual action. Whether as individuals, organisations or communities, it is important to remember that we all have a role to play in breaking down barriers that promote inequality and creating an inclusive society for future generations. This is why at Compass, we have various practices in place such as our GRACE groups and unconscious bias training to ensure our staff, foster carers and children can feel safe in an environment where they are valued and respected.

In the fight against racism, both covert and overt forms must be confronted with equal vigour. By acknowledging the existence of covert racism, understanding its implications and coming up with effective strategies, we can move substantially closer to achieving real equality and justice for all.


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