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Introduction to Discrimination

Have you been to a busy city center where there are lots and lots of people? You will notice that
no two people are the same. There are religious people, non-religious people, tall, short, people
with long hair, others with short hair, women, men, young girls, young boys, elderly people,
babies in strollers, people with dogs, hoods, short skirts, tight dresses, suits, people with different
skin colors, speaking different languages and so on. Some people have some disability and others
do not have any disability. We are all VERY different.

But looking carefully, all these different people have many things in common. We all eat, drink
and have feelings. Many of us have families and loved ones, and we all breathe the same air.
We are one people and no one is more human than the other.

These differences and similarities are the basis of social groups. Each person is connected to
some kind of group, even though some may not be aware of it. Very likely, you share a language,
culture, family, belief, or custom with some other people. As a result, you sometimes use Us or
Them to isolate yourself from another group of people. The moment one begins to have strong
ideas or feelings about Them and Us, prejudice sets in.

Prejudice is when you have formed an opinion about something even before you know the real
story. Prejudice makes us treat people differently. For example, if a normal kid goes into a
singing competition with the child of a music superstar, people will immediately think that the
child of the superstar will win. Why? Prejudice can also be well intended. For example, Black
people are great at basketball

When prejudice gets stronger, it develops into stereotype. Stereotype is a very distorted view or
idea about something. For example, pink is for girls, or basketball is for tall people. Stereotype is
learned at very early age, and children grow to have very strong ideas or opinions about things,
groups or ideologies. As children grow up, the lines of like and hate for other things, people,
cultures, beliefs, languages become sharper. At this point Discrimination is ripe.

What is discrimination?

To discriminate is to treat people unfairly because of their association or perceived connection to

a group. Acts of discrimination take many different forms. For example, a tourist is made to pay
a higher price for a place to stay because the landlord thinks he has a lot of money, whiles the
locals pay a lower rate for the same facility.

Unknowingly many of us have treated others unfairly. In the same way, many of us have also
been victims of unfair treatment.

Sometimes, there could be a reasonable explanation for a perceived discrimination act, and
unlike physical abuse or rape, there may be no evidence of the act, and it may be difficult to
prove that there has been a discrimination incident.

Exclusion and rejection are key ingredients in discrimination. They occur when people do not
appreciate diversity or differences. They occur when people are prejudiced or have formed their
own opinion about others because of their social, political, religious, sexuality, interests, culture,
traditions, and so on.

In the past, nations have also treated its citizens and other nations unfairly. For example, some
jobs (Example: kindergarten teaching) were done by women because they are thought to be more
nurturing. That is stereotype. In many countries, professions such as driving, army, police, and
construction workers were all considered male jobs and women had a hard time getting into

Types of discrimination

Here are a few types of discrimination:

Direct discrimination:
Probably the simplest and most common form, this kind is an unfair treatment of another person
because of specific protected characteristics, or perceived characteristic, or their association with
someone with that protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination:
Sometimes there are laws and policies that put a person in a disadvantaged position. Such
policies apply to every person in that circle (school, workplace or community) but because of
some particular characteristic that you have, the law hits you harder than others. If the policy
makers can prove that they considered your characteristics and ended up with the policy with the
least effect, it can be disqualified as discrimination.

This is an unwanted, offensive, humiliating and intimidation act directed at you because of your
age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation or religion. Harassment can be in the form of
gestures, spoken or written words, images or jokes.

Sexual harassment:
This is a kind of harassment, as explained above, but sexual in nature. Sexual harassment
incidents often leave you degraded, humiliated, and offended. It tends to violate your dignity and
makes one feel inferior in many ways. This kind of discrimination may also come with threats
and promises that make you feel vulnerable.

This is the unfavorable treatment one receives, often as a reaction to the person's claim of

discrimination, or because the person is supporting someones claim of discrimination, or the

persons intentions about something. In an office setting, the person can be excluded from many
activities as a punishment, until the person decides to leave the job at his own will.

Where does discrimination occur?

In any human community or settlement, discrimination can occur.

Workplace: At workplaces, some employers fail to hire people because of who they are. New
staff are sometimes promoted over others who have been around longer. Peoples contracts are
terminated and not renewed because of their protected characteristic or association to a group

School: Children from minorities or protected characteristics have been denied admission, or
scholarships, or have been excluded from educational programs.

Housing: Many families have had to endure long periods of hard times because landlords and
housing officials have treated them unfairly. They are given all sorts of ridiculous reasons, with
the intention of making the homes available to other people that they are more comfortable with.

Public Places: Many people have been given disrespectful treatment at public places such as
restaurants, markets, hospitals and sports facilities, just because they look like or have some
characteristics that others are not comfortable with.

Access to credit/funds: People have been denied credit or funds bust because they come from
particular families, or are known to be from poor backgrounds, or for other reasons.

Politics/Voting: People are often prevented from being active in political groups because they
are perceived to carry negative images. People have also been disenfranchised (prevented from
voting) because of their social, cultural, religious or political backgrounds.

Law/Police: People are sometimes treated, or profiled by police just because of their skin
color or the way they dress.

Travel/Tourism: People have been denied visas, or harassed by security officers at the airport,
or been treated unfairly because they are perceived to be troublemakers or dangerous people.

Effects of Discrimination

Like abuse and bullying acts, there are effects and consequences and no one wins. Here are a

The Victim
Physical and emotional impacts:
Exclusion or rejection directed to you by others for reasons that you often have no control of can
cause extreme worry to an individual. It results in anxiety, sadness, depression and a feeling of
guilt and emptiness. These often translate into depression, loss of interest, eating disorders and
stress-related ailments.

Social, educational and financial impacts:

Discrimination, harassment and victimization leave
the individual confused and broken.

They may take to alcohol or drugs, or may form their

own opinions on others, develop a hatred for others,
or withdraw from people.

It can affect them financially, may lose their job, quit

school or do poorly at school.

Society and Businesses

Communities and businesses that fail to take strong action on discrimination tend to be lower in
productivity. This is because people feel disgruntled, and loose interest in working hard. There is
a drop in morale, trust and confidence on the part of the employees. People with talents and
exceptional skills and abilities are not attracted to these places because they do not want to be
discriminated against.

People who face racial discrimination may regroup with some vengeance in mind against other
groups. This can fuel conflicts and social discords. In fact, many conflicts and wars have been
started in this way.

The Culprit
There are very strict laws on discrimination that may be applied to individuals who discriminate.
There is no excuse, even if you did not know that your actions were discriminatory. Employees
and individuals can bring legal action on the business or individual who did the act, and there are
consequences for guilty parties.

Dealing with Discrimination

Discrimination is something that can have blur barriers and may be a bit difficult to prove that
you were discriminated against. For example, you were dropped from your schools music team
and replaced by another student. It could be that that person has some additional skills that are
needed for the common good of the team. It may be a reasonable action even though an

individual may see that in another light. Some people are quick to make conclusions about racial
discrimination or feel threatened by any little thing.

The baseline is that no one deserves to be treated less that other humans and no one should put
up with it. Here are some ideas for dealing with discrimination:

Be sure or certain that there is a case of discrimination. Make sure you document the event
and what was said to you or done to you. Do not wait as you may lose memory of the actions and
words used against you.

Speak to a senior person. (Your parents, teacher or head teacher, manager at work, or a
supervisor at the restaurant, or any person in authority at the place of the incident). Politely make
your case and trust that they will take it up. Follow it up and ensure that the issue is resolved and
that the culprit is aware of the consequences if it happened again. Forgive the person and try not
to have any hate in your heart for the person.

Speak to a law enforcement officer if you feel the case is a very serious one that needs serious
attention. Do not be quiet about it. Let your parents help you make the right choices about what
to do.

Tips for parents:

Look out for these signs in your children, they often hint that they are experiencing
discrimination or bullying at school: anger, quietness, withdrawal, Not wanting to go to school,
fear of walking home alone, damaged or lost possessions.
Preventing discrimination

Children are never born racists or with discriminatory minds. They learn these behaviors from
people and events around them. If parents or care givers tell them things that make them see
people in a different light, they will grow up with that idea, and it may be difficult to correct
when they are adults.

For Parents or caregivers

The greatest prevention plan may come from parents. Parents must set good examples in their
attitudes, words and behavior towards others. Children are able to recognize differences and hold
sectarian prejudices from the age of three.

Do not think children are too young to know about prejudice and discrimination. As children
grow, speak to them about prejudice and discrimination and how that hurts people. Speak to
them about the need to appreciate differences. Encourage our children to think through the
consequences of prejudice & discrimination for themselves Barnados

Encourage and support children who have been discriminated at. Doing nothing is not a good
idea, as it will not make discrimination go away.

For young people

It is very important that you realize that the world is a very big place and there are humans living
in many other places, very far from you. Because of that, people do things differently and are
brought up differently. That means what you think is cool may not be so for another person,
because of where they come from. Being different is a good thing. Can you imagine if every
human was just like you?

Learn to appreciate diversity and respect people who are different in any way. People may be
disabled, transgender, dark-skin or have a different hair color. No one chose to be that way. If

even people choose to believe or join specific groups, they have a right to belong and a right to
believe what they want. We MUST learn to respect that, just as you would like others to respect
you for who you are.