South Asian emigrants are watching the news closely today as they wait to see what unfolds between India and Pakistan. The threats and tensions are mounting, which is cause for concern in the border regions between the two countries.
Today’s violence comes in the aftermath of the suicide bombing in Kashmir two weeks ago which killed 40 Indian soldiers. We have been watching the subsequent incidents closely, as clashes occur in the disputed region, because of the emotional ramifications for those who have lineages in India and Pakistan.
The deep personal concern comes for our family members back in the home country, as well as the lingering emotional trauma from the 1947 partition between the two countries.
For those of us doing diversity work abroad, we are called to acknowledge our families’ histories and experiences in order to heal ourselves and the organizations that we work with. It is equally important to acknowledge the unconscious bias that may exist due to the history of our ancestors and our families and in turn, how that influences us in the workplace. Employers also need to know that these influences may come to light in the form of internal or interpersonal turmoil during times of tension between our home countries.
These unconscious biases and beliefs and old, unhealed trauma may impact individuals as they negotiate their internal demons of the past. They need extra support in times likes these to see that individuals are individuals and that the friends and colleagues they had yesterday are the same today. They may need extra space and an emotional container as they process their own internal dialogue of what the tensions mean for them and how their families may be impacted.
Partition was not that long ago. The memories and stories of rape and killings are very much a part of our present. The type of tensions we have seen these past weeks have heightened our fears that such violence may happen again.
As employers, it is important to acknowledge when an individual needs emotional support and what strategies can offer that support. Ask them how they are doing, how they are being affected by the incidents abroad, and whether they have family living near the affected area. Offer them a listening ear and if possible, an employee family assistance program. Bring together all individuals with roots in the region to share how they are being impacted by these tensions. Opportunities for group dialogue will allow staff to continue to see each other as humans and see how similar they really are. This is diversity. The discussion will allow them to be whole and complete in the workplace and provide a space where they feel that deep sense of belonging and safety.