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University of Silesia in Katowice

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how to react to discrimination?

React when you experience or witness discrimination. React because discrimination cannot escape consequences

1

Express your disapproval of discrimination

Expressing your disapproval of experienced or witnessed discrimination can stop it from escalating and correct the behaviour of the perpetrators. Even if you are not sure you have been discriminated against, do not hold back on your reaction. Remember the phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility – by not reacting to discrimination, you increase the likelihood that others will also avoid reacting and contribute to indifference and desensitisation, and allow discriminatory behaviour to fester.

The main tool for reacting against discrimination is feedback based on the way of treating others with dignity and respect.

Providing feedback to a person committing discrimination is to lead to that person ceasing their negative behaviour. There are several techniques for construing feedback. Here we provide the FECE technique, which seems to be easy to remember and implement in a certain situation of formulating critique against somebody. How to decipher the FECE acronym?

F stands for facts  

Carefully describe a given situation and behaviour you observe (Remember, there is no point in commenting on somebody’s character traits; the point is a conversation about the behaviour as it undergoes a change). 

Example: If I understood correctly, you’ve just told a joke that women with blonde hair are unable to think, haven’t you?

E stands for emotions

Express the emotions, feelings, and attitude to the behaviour of the discriminating person.

Example: I feel embarrassed.

C stands for consequences

What are the consequences of the discriminating behaviour? How does it affect you or others?

Example: Just because you tell jokes like that, you’re losing respect in my eyes. Perhaps also in the eyes of other women, regardless of their hair colour.

E stands for expectations

Describe the behaviour that should occur in the short-term and long-term future.

Example: Don’t tell jokes based on the assumption that someone has to be stupid. Or at least don’t tell them to me.

After expressing your critical feedback:

  • Take responsibility for your point of view and defend it in a discussion if one occurs.
  • Remember, a general rule is that you should react as soon as possible after an event; however, take into account the mental state of yours and your interlocutor. Sometimes it might happen that you withdraw from your spontaneous outrage and wait for a proper moment to provide feedback.
  • Do not run away after you have provided your feedback, hear out the reaction to it.

2

Micro-reactions 

When discrimination is reduced to micro-inequalities, micro-reactions taken to counteract, challenge, reduce, or neutralise individual manifestations of prejudice and discrimination can be the answer. For example, when preparing for a meeting, the supervisor suggests that a man should prepare the projector and a woman the coffee and tea, the micro-reaction might be for the woman to say, “I would like to prepare the projector” and start the announced activity without delay.

Micro-reactions are easier to apply in a situation when we are a witness of discrimination. For the above-mentioned example, an effective micro-reaction of a man for gender discrimination will be a quick answer: “I’ll make something to drink.” Other types of micro-reactions in a situation we witness discrimination are, e.g. out-verbal reactions stopping sexist jokes; making eye contact with the affected and telling “I believe you”; insisting on listening to the opinion of the affected; a micro-compliment such as “It’s interesting, what you’ve said” in the case of unequal treatment of an author of the statement on the discussion forum.

3

Reporting an incident

Reporting an incident to your supervisor or to the relevant authorities or units of the University is also an effective response.

4

Protecting your rights under the law 

In addition to internal university procedures, there is liability resulting from generally applicable laws. Anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against has the opportunity to protect their rights before the courts.

Discrimination also includes encouraging or ordering another person to violate the principle of equal treatment. In the case of such instructions or orders, we must remember that we have not only the right, but also a duty to oppose any behaviour that incites or indirectly aims to violate the principle of equal treatment.

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