Prejudice and Discrimination
The objectives of the workshop include dealing with prejudices in society, our own prejudices and the prejudices of others in relation to us. It aims to encourage the deconstruction of prejudices and the image of the enemy in society, and to develop empathy and solidarity among those belonging to different social groups.
Type of exercise: Independent work, discussion in the plenary
Duration: 35–45 minutes
Materials: 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.
Prejudice about Ethnic/National Groups
Type of exercise: Work in small groups, presentations and discussion in plenary
Duration: 90 minutes
Materials: Flipchart paper, markers
Step One (prejudice about your own group): The participants split into groups according to ethnicity. Each group should write on the wall newspaper what they have heard about their ethnic group in their environment (to be clear, it does not have to be what they themselves believe), or answer the question: What are [Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, Albanians, Macedonians, Montenegrins, etc.] like?
Step Two (prejudice about other groups): Participants pick an ethnic group they do not belong to (from among the ethnic groups that at least one of the other participants belongs to). It is important that each group has roughly the same number of participants. They write on the wall newspaper what they have heard that ethnic group is like.
The wall newspapers from Step One are presented, then from Step Two, followed by a discussion in the plenary.
Discussion in the plenary
Suggested questions: What do you think about this? How does it make you feel? How often do you encounter these prejudices in everyday life? What can be done about them?
It is very important to carefully introduce this exercise and give precise instructions. The task is to write down opinions you know exist, not your personal opinion. There will often be participants who do not want to define themselves in terms of ethnic belonging and will therefore not want to participate in an exercise that puts them in such a position. This is another reason why it is important
to clarify the purpose of this exercise. In our contexts, often nobody asks us what ethnic (or other) group we belong to, they simply classify us whether we like it or not, without regard for how we feel about it. You can suggest to those who do not want to identify themselves in terms of ethnic belonging that they pick the group they are most often categorised as by others. Some may decide to form a new group in protest and call it “extraterrestrials” or “cosmopolitans”, which should be allowed, although it does deviate from the topic.
There may also be self-censorship, because “it’s not nice to write such things about someone”. It should be clarified that the purpose is to map existing prejudices (that may not necessarily be ones we subscribe to ourselves, but are something we heard said around us), and then think about how to deal with them. One approach is denying their existence, but that is unlikely to do much to dispel them. Bear in mind that this exercise is often difficult for people because it is the first time they are put into a situation where they have to tell those “others” what kind of prejudice exists about them. However, if the exercise is conducted carefully it can actually lead to building mutual trust.
Duration: 30 minutes
The barometer method is described in detail here.
Suggested statements for the barometer:
- I have prejudice.
- I have the right to my prejudice.
- Prejudice leads to discrimination.
Brainstorming: Where Do Prejudices Come From?
Duration: 10–15 minutes