Discrimination – an Issue That Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes
Author: Sarah-Jane Baur
The last article I wrote on the topic of discrimination was a general introduction to the topic. Now it is time to go a bit more into detail with the problem of discrimination and look at some personal stories of people, who have suffered from discrimination. The first story is on the topic of racial discrimination:
„My name is Nikola Bobann, I’m half Danish and half Bosnian. I want to write about an incident I had 3 years ago. I had just finished business college and was applying for this job in a big, well respected company. I had all the necessary diplomas and qualifications and was self-confident. So I delivered my application personally just to make a good impression.
The company told me that I would have an answer within a month. I waited two month for a reply and than I decided to withdraw my application. I was disappointed but at the same time I had to find out what the reasons were for the silence.
I went to the company for the second time and got to talk with the manager. He sat behind a big table full of papers and he asked me why I had withdrawn my application and I answered. He reached out for two piles of papers and asked for my name. I told him my name and he looked surprised and asked me where I came from. I had to find out that one of the piles had familiar Danish names and the other pile had only foreign names.
At that time I understood his astonished face – it was because of my blue eyes and blond hair – he thought I was a Dane, but according to the application form I was a foreigner for him.
This experience made me realise the race problem even in well respected companies, which are supposed to have an intelligent workforce.
Nikola Bobann, Denmark“
In this video, an American woman, Lilly Ledbetter, tells the story of how she experienced gender discrimination at her working place:
The next story was written by a mother who tells about the discrimination her son and family have been experiencing due to her son being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. This is an example of the discrimination disabled people face. The Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder and is classified through apparent difficulties in social interaction, accompanied by repetitive and restricted patterns of interests and behaviours. In difference to other autism spectrum disorders, it heavily affects linguistic and cognitive development. Patients diagnosed with Asperger’s are therefore often perceived as physically clumsy and seem to have an atypical use of language. Asperger’s therefore heavily affects most patients in their everyday lives :
„I am submitting this story on behalf of my son and family who due to my son’s diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome (highly functional, intelligent, capable with supportive environment) he and we have experienced many many situations that have been blatant discrimination (civil rights violations) and situation’s that have been more subtle – stating that because others do this it is OK or right.
He has suffered at the hands of untrained and unknowing school personnel – who refused to get additional training, who stated that seclusion and restraint and the use of adversives were treatment modalities that were appropriate for those “like” my son. The School “fired” the Autism consultant that told the school what they were doing was not right or correct. He has been excluded (not to his wishes) from numerous school activities many times through being asked to leave the classroom and stand outside the door while the teacher “talked” to the other students – so that my son did not have the same information as they did regarding attending class trips, social events, assignments, knowledge, and etc. He was left alone in the classroom while his class went to recess or to lunch and was left in the lunchroom while the class went to recess or their next activity.
We were asked to remove my son from one school and attend one of the other schools given the reason that the special education teachers were located at the other school. However these same teachers came regularly to his original school to work with other students (not more than 1 mile apart from one another). He obtained “high” enough grades in his classes to make sure he passed and would not be eligible for special services. We as a family were “called” names under hushed voices, and while at IEP meetings there were many times when the teachers would kick each other under the table when certain topics were brought up such as testing for additional supportive services (as his grades and testing did not match – so my son was denied FAPE under IDEA, ie. He was getting an A in math, yet when we had our own testing done which forced the school to test him, he was in the bottom 2% for math).
My son was the only child ever to be denied access to the school’s Charter School; and then again denied during enrollment to attend a nearby school district’s school for which his sister was not denied open enrollment to that same nearby district. In not so subtle terms we were told that they would not approve his open enrollment under appeal (which they hired an attorney) however at the same time they would not provide supports and accommodations necessary. My son who was moving into the middle school (and they claimed he was miraculously “cured” and did not require any supports he had at the elementary level. If he would have stayed – he would have failed (which is what they wanted) – so they did get what they wanted in the end – we moved at our great expense.
His school experience included 7 different school placements in 7 years. He was removed or “asked to leave” by 3 different Boy Scout troops (not tucking his shirt in – not attending an overnight camp-out which the troop leaders dogs ran unleashed – not playing competitive games with the other boys), an exercise and fitness center (for being accused of soiling the bathroom which others were using the facility), a family resource center program as other boys “bullied” him. I could tell many more instances – however I think you get the idea and the struggles we have had in this regard.
These three stories are examples of personal experiences three different people and families had with different kinds of discrimination. These stories are, of course, mere representatives of the millions of people who are affected by some kind of discrimination every day. The solutions for to the problems displayed in these stories are as individual as the stories themselves, but it is important to find solutions, in order to minimize all kinds of discrimination wherever possible.
Are You Part of the Game?
Author: Sarah-Jane Baur
The noun “discrimination” does not necessarily have to be negatively connotated. At least not when looking at the denotations of the word. Sometimes it can simply describe the ability to judge what is of high quality. It is, however, nowadays mostly associated with the rather negative sociological concept of discrimination. This concept is described by the Oxford dictionary as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” As this definition already indicates, discrimination is a very broad problem and applies to almost everyone at some point in their lives.
There are many different types of discrimination and to list them would be tedious and lengthy. This article will therefore only include the most important categories discrimination can be grouped into. One of the most commonly debated types of discrimination is gender and gender identity discrimination. As the name already suggests, this kind of discrimination refers to a person’s genetic or chosen gender. Gender discrimination can be present at the workplace, but also in all other areas of social life and has been heavily debated in the past. But not only people’s sex leads to discrimination, also their sexual orientation can cause them to be discriminated against. Even though same-sex partnerships are legal in many countries nowadays, there is still a lot of discrimination towards them present in society. Part of this is also the so-called marriage discrimination, which still prevents same-sex couples in many countries from getting legally married.
A video on marriage discrimination
Video Source: Get Up! Action for Australia
Another rather commonly debated type of discrimination is discrimination based on race and color. This is often closely interlinked with discrimination because of religion. Especially in times of rapidly advancing globalization, these kinds of discrimination experience a wide spread. A further aspect of globalization is that citizenship discrimination becomes more apparent, as well. Changing visa regulations and the increasing spread of economical and political unions such as the European Union constantly continue to ease trade and traveling between certain countries, which, as a side effect, also sheds further light upon the discrimination of citizens of the countries which do not benefit from these new policies.
Also often addressed in a legal context is workplace discrimination. This includes illegal hiring and firing of employees, harassment and unfair or unequal wages. It furthermore often involves age discrimination, because many employers are not willing to employ competent applicants above a certain age. Besides these types, workplace discrimination also includes many other common types of discrimination, such as gender discrimination and discrimination based on race and color.
Other types of discrimination include discrimination of the disabled and discrimination based on stereotypes and tastes. In this context it is important to mention that discrimination of the disabled is not limited to social exclusion, but also stretches as far as infrastructural exclusion. Many, often also official, buildings and means of transportation are not easily accessible for disabled people, which is often forgotten when debating the topic of discrimination against the disabled. Discrimination based on stereotypes and tastes, on the other hand, is very much limited to a social context, where it occurs in all kinds of different environments, such as the workplace.
A Public Service Announcement on the discrimination of the disabled
Video Source: Pro Infirmis
The above named types of discrimination are only a selection and short listing of the most commonly debated issues in society and are, by no means, a complete illustration of all different shapes discrimination can take. When looking at this rather lengthy listing, the question of what society has done and is currently doing to solve this problem. The answer to this question would, again, be rather lengthy and will soon be treated in greater detail in another article on this blog, but some examples of measures already taken shall still be named at this point. Anti-discrimination actions are highly individual for each country, and giving a short overview is therefore not possible. Most anti-discrimination acts are, however, inspired by correlating United Nations actions. An example for such is the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in 2001 in South Africa. Many anti-discrimination measures also refer to the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, states in article seven that “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.“
A detailed list of anti-discrimination acts sorted by country can be viewed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-discrimination_acts
Another question that might come to one’s mind when looking at today’s issues with discrimination is what can be done and what still has to be done, in order to minimize the amount of discrimination in our society. The answer to this question, and thereby the solution to the problem, is rather complicated. Due to the fact that there are so many different types of discrimination, many solution sets are highly individual and can only really be understood when looking at the specific issue in question. There are, however, two things that definitely can and need to be done with all discrimination topics- raising awareness and educating the people about the problems. Aware people will be more likely to demand changes in legislation, and also to support such. This enables activists and politicians to pass laws that have the potential to decrease and punish discrimination in society. Education, of which raising awareness is often a part of, can also be an aid in making people aware of the areas where they discriminate and thereby appeal to their conscience. Both measures also increase people’s understanding of their surrounding and the fellow beings that surround them.
In conclusion, it can therefore be seen that, even though some kinds of discrimination, such as religious discrimination, are more common than others, but it should also be apparent that there are many different issues that affect almost everyone. Everyone should therefore be aware of discrimination in his or her surroundings and try to counteract them wherever possible. As written in the above paragraph, solutions to the problem are highly individual, and this fact further emphasizes on the need of even just small and simple actions being taken, seeing as it is impossible to implement one great solution towards all discriminative issues. Discrimination is still a big issue in our global society, and with progressing globalization we also need to make progress in the fight against discrimination.
1. The Oxford Dictionary, Discrimination: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/discrimination
2. The United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Image Source: http://iso25.deviantart.com/#/d1iv3ib
An example of religious discrimination
An example of racial discrimination
Image Source: http://www.dosomething.org/files/pictures/antilatino.jpg