Associations: Prejudice and Discrimination
Post-its, Flipchart paper, pencils
For this exercise, you need to prepare a dozen terms denoting different social groups. For example: religious persons, soldiers, feminists, fundamentalists, female politicians, homosexuals, atheists, Americans, Germans, NGOs.
All participants are given a dozen or so post-its. They are told that the trainer will give them a term and their task is to write on one of their post-its the first thing that comes to their mind when they hear it. They only have a short time, maybe 15 or 20 seconds. After each round the training team collects all the post-its and attaches them to a flipchart paper where the terms have been written as a heading. Then the trainer says the next term and the participants write their association on a new post-it.
When the exercise is complete and all the post-its have been attached under the corresponding terms, the flipchart papers are displayed around the room so that everyone can read the various associations.
Discussion in the Plenary
How much did you censor yourself? How surprised were you by what you wrote? Where do these associations come from? How are these associations related to prejudices?
It is useful to have some of the terms denote social groups that some of the participants belong to. Some participants may be hurt by some of what they read, and those who wrote it may feel guilty or act defensively. If the point does not arise clearly in the discussion, point out that the instructions were not for people to write their personal opinion, but just the first thing that popped into their head. All the notes illustrate the images and prejudices present in our environment that we are often bombarded with. We can deny that prejudice exists and censor ourselves, but that will probably not do anyone any good. On the other hand, we can discuss prejudices openly with other people and try to find ways to change things together.