- Number of participants = Any
- Theme = Prejudice, discrimination, stereotypes, microaggression
- Duration = 90 minutes
- Difficult for participants = Level 5
- Difficulty for facilitator = Level 4
Discussion to help understand discrimination and reflect on own prejudice. People explore their experiences of interpersonal discrimination.
- The right to life, liberty and personal security
- Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
- To develop knowledge and understanding about being the object, and the cause of, discrimination
- To encourage the development of skills to deal with discrimination in positive ways
- To develop values of tolerance and responsibility.
- Flip chart
- Pens/permanent marker
Flow of the Exercise
Explain that this is an opportunity for the participants to share their thoughts and feelings about personal experiences of interpersonal discrimination, both when people discriminated them and when they may have discriminated against others.
Make sure that everyone knows and understands the rules for participatory group work: everyone should be treated with respect, what someone says is held in confidence and no one has to feel under pressure to say anything, or something, which makes them feel uncomfortable.
Conduct a brief brainstorming session on the words ‘discrimination’ and ‘microaggression’, asking participants to give examples of everyday discrimination and/or microaggression. For instance: verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, insults, sarcasm, stereotypes, barging in front of someone, vandalism, discrimination based on age, caste, criminal record, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, intersectionality, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and so on.
Ask everyone to take 10 to 15 minutes to reflect on personal incidents when:
- they have experienced discrimination
- they have discriminated against someone else
- they have witnessed discrimination but did not intervene.
Ask volunteers to offer their experiences as examples for the group to consider together. Let them say what happened and how they felt about it. Try to get at least two examples in each category 1, 2 and 3.
Make brief notes about the incidents on the flip chart.
Start with a short discussion about the activity as a whole, whether or not it was difficult, and why. Then go on to analyse the causes and effects of the different incidents:
- Why did the discrimination happen?
- Why did you behave the way you did?
- How would other members of the group have behaved in similar circumstances?
- How could you have behaved differently? Has the rest of the group any suggestions?
- What could anyone have done to prevent the incident from happening?
- In the case of 3), why did not they intervene?
- Where there any general causes of the incidents or were they all unique?
- How many incidents were the result of misunderstandings? How many incidents were the results of bitterness, spite or jealousy? How many incidents were the results of differences of culture and custom, opinion or belief?
- What do people understand by the word ‘tolerance’? How would they define it?
- Should we be tolerant of everything that other people do or say?
- Why is tolerance a key value for the promotion of human rights?
This makes a good drama activity for Image Theatre, which is an efficient method for helping people reflect on discrimination. Ask the participants to reflect the experiences of the three different personal incidents in small groups and to create a frozen scene. In a plenary, each frozen scene is shown. Participants note down thoughts that cross their mind while they are watching the frozen scenes. After all the situations have been presented, participants share some of the words that they wrote down on their paper and continue with the debriefing for this method. The next step could be to transform the presented frozen scenes into a positive, non-violent image of the situation.
Instead of Image Theatre, you could also use the method Forum Theatre. Ask two, three or four people to develop a short role-play of an incident. The rest of the group observe. You can stop the role-play at intervals and ask the audience to comment or to make suggestions about how the role-play should continue. Alternatively, members of the audience can intervene directly to take over from the actors and develop alternative outcomes.
Possible Follow up Activities
You may like to discuss the contradiction in the UN Declaration on Principles of Tolerance, which raises issues about the limits to tolerance.
Tolerance is consistent with respect for human rights; the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs.UN Declaration on Principles of Tolerance
Ask the group to consider if ‘the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice’. How can one person at the same time ‘accept that others adhere to their [convictions]’, especially if those convictions are racist or bigoted?
If you would like to continue working within the themes of discrimination, racism and microaggression, you could use the method Take a Step Forward, where participants experience how inequality of opportunity affects people’s lives. To better understand the power dynamics of historical events regarding racism and colonisation and why it still exists, use the method Timelines.
In the method Path to Equality Land, participants explore issues of inequality, privilege, discrimination and racism through imagination and drawing and try to overcome inequality that they have observed through the reflection and debriefing of this method.
There should be the possibility to empower Black People and People of Colour who are facing racism. Provide a safe space just for them, empower them and help find and share coping strategies by using the method Empower Yourself, where individual experiences are shared among themselves about racism, identity, etc.
If you want to continue working on intersectionality, use the methods Culture Clash or Barnga, which are simulations to experience interactions with different cultures. You may want to continue addressing the right to freedom of religion and belief with the method A Mosque in Sleepyville which explores a dispute over the building of a new mosque in a traditionally Christian area through the simulation of a town council meeting.
Find out about organisations that provide support for people affected by discrimination and racism, for example, telephone helplines or victims’ support networks. Find out about other organisations that promote understanding and tolerance in your community. You could get in touch with an organisation that works to promote peace and non-discrimination in the community and find out how your group could help as volunteers.
Stress that the purpose of this activity is to develop skills for dealing with discrimination by recognising the causes, acknowledging feelings and emotions, and developing skills to act assertively in order to control the situation. The focus is on finding non-discriminatory means of responding to situations rather than helping individuals to get over a trauma. If anyone is suffering because of discrimination, racism or/and microaggression, then tell them they are welcome to talk with you in private afterwards or can leave the room at any time.
Be prepared for surprises. Support anyone who finds this activity difficult or upsetting. You cannot know everyone’s background nor what is happening or what has happened in their life. It might be that some participants have had bad experiences of discrimination or racism, for instance psychological or emotional abuse, violence, cyberbullying, sexual abuse, racism, bullying at school or at work, self-harm, attempted suicide, hate crimes etc.
Tell people to remember Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.Universal Declaration of Human Rights
If we expect others to follow this Article, then we have to follow it, too. If you have more than ten people in the group, you could divide them up into smaller groups to share their stories.
Adapted from Council of Europe (2017). Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People. Violence in my life. Strasbourg.