||49 Practical Activities and Methods for Human
Rights Education > Responding to racism
Responding to racism
Everyone in the school community has a responsibility
to monitor and tackle racial harassment and racist incidents.
and Xenophobia, General human rights
||This activity uses role-play and review of a critical incident
to provoke participants to review their understanding of cultural
difference. It also involves discussion and collective writing
to address issues about:
- The difficulties of stepping outside one's own cultural
- Racism, stereotypes and cultural differences
- How to deal with racism in a school or other educational
- Equality in dignity and rights
- The right not to be discriminated against
- The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- To stimulate interest in human rights and racism
- To develop skills for democratic participation, communication
- To promote responsibility, justice and solidarity
- Large sheets of paper or flipchart paper and markers
- 4 volunteers to present a role-play
- Critical incident role card and guidelines for facilitators,
- The school's (or organisation's) policy and guidelines
on racial Incidents
- Copies of handout 2, "some practical points for
consideration", or write the points up on a large
sheet of paper or overhead transparency (optional)
- Review the critical incident presented in handout 1,
and if necessary adapt it to your own situation.
- Choose four volunteers and ask them to prepare to present
a very short role-play based on the critical incident.
This activity is in two parts: part 1, a review: what do we understand
by the term "racism"?; part 2, drafting a policy for
dealing with racist incidents in school (or in a club or organisation).
Part 1. A review: what do we understand by the term "racism"?
- Begin the activity with a brainstorm about racism. You may
consider challenging participants to react to racism by telling
a racist joke and asking them what they think about it. Write
their responses on the large sheet of paper or flipchart paper.
- Racist incidents and potential intercultural misunderstandings
happen every day. Go on to brainstorm what kinds of everyday
incidents and behaviour people identify as being racist.
- Now work with the critical incident. Hand out paper and pens.
Ask people to watch the role-play and to write down a couple
of key words which summarise their response at each of the breaks
in the presentation. Get the volunteers to act out the role-play.
- Conduct a short debriefing of people's comments:
- What did people write down in the first break?
What led participants to their conclusions?
- What did people write down in the second break?
What led them to those conclusions?
- What did people realise at the end? What assumptions
had they been making?
Part 2. Drafting a policy for dealing with racist incidents
in school (or in an organisation).
- Introduce the next task, to draft a policy for the school,
club or organisation.
- Make a short brainstorm of the different actors in their
school or club. For example, in a school there are pupils/students,
teachers, a headteacher, cleaning staff, librarians, school
bus drivers and supervisory staff, for instance, playground
- Next, ask the participants to divide themselves into small
groups of four or five people to consider the duties and responsibilities
of the different members of the school community with respect
to racist incidents. The objective is to draft guidelines on
how these people should deal with such incidents. Give the groups
30 minutes for their discussions and to prepare a report with
key points on flipchart paper.
- Ask participants to come back into plenary to report on their
work. The facilitator should make a summary of the points and
invite the participants to compare them with whatever policies
or guidelines already exist in their school.
- Now encourage each group to work further to develop one aspect
(step or measure). For example: if a general school statement
about racism and discrimination is needed, then one group should
be in charge of writing it. Groups should also discuss ways
to present their results in plenary, for example, using not
only their writing but also images, collages and body sculptures
to better convey their feelings.
- In plenary, ask the groups to report their results and discuss
how to implement their ideas.
Debriefing and evaluation
Begin with a review of the activity itself and then go on to
talk about what people learned and what they should do next.
- How prevalent is racism in the school or club, and in society
- Which groups suffer most? Why? Were the same groups targeted
twenty or fifty years ago?
- Have people's concept of what constitutes a racist incident
changed as a result of doing the activity? How? Give examples?
- Whose responsibility is it to ensure that racist incidents
do not happen in your school (or organisation)?
- Think back to the critical incident. What should the teachers,
Abdallah's father and the headteacher have done to ensure a
- Having a policy on dealing with racist incidents is important,
but would it not be better not to need it in the first place?
What can and should be done to address the causes of racist
behaviour, both in school and in society at large?
Tips for facilitators
Be aware of the background of
the members of the group and adapt the activity accordingly. People
will be more engaged if you deal with issues that are real for
the group. On the other hand, you need to be prepared for the
emotions that may be brought out as a result. It is important
to pay attention to the feelings of those participants who feel
that they themselves have been discriminated against at school.
It may be useful, instead of focusing on one critical incident/case
study, to gather insights from several examples and different
perspectives. This approach will enable you to take different
power relations into account; for example, the implications of
racism among peers and racism coming from a teacher or headteacher.
If you want to be provocative at the beginning and to use a
racist joke, you may consider choosing one that pokes fun at a
group which is not represented in your class or youth group. In
every country there are traditions of jokes about other nationals.
You could start off the discussion by asking the group to share
one or two. You could then go on to talk about the dividing line
between racist and non-racist jokes. For instance, are jokes about
Pakistanis or Turks nationalistic or racist? This could lead you
on to the definition of a racist joke and of a racist incident
(see below in "further information").
It may be that at the end of part 2 at step 4, the conclusions
are not sufficiently focused for the participants to use them
for the next step. In this case, you may wish to use handout 2,
"some practical points for consideration" and encourage
groups to develop the first four steps.
The activity can be adapted to address issues such as bullying.
If bullying is an issue, you may like to explore the activity
"Do we have alternatives?, before
you try to develop an anti-bullying policy.
Suggestions for follow-up.
Review the issue regularly, for instance, once or twice a year.
Policies need to be reviewed to ensure that they are in fact meeting
the objectives. As society changes, so policies need updating
to ensure that they continue to meet the challenges of the changing
The group may wish to look at how aspects of racism come into
commercial decision-making. The activity "Access
to medicaments", looks at various issues, including racism,
which were raised in the 1990 court case between the South African
government and companies producing drugs for the treatment of
AIDS. Ideas for action
Continue to work on the policies in your own school or organisation
and ensure their implementation. The group could also link up
with anti-racist projects in other countries. For instance with
"Schools Without Racism", a programme implemented in
Belgium that requires at least 60% of the school population to
sign and implement a common anti-discrimination statement (www.schoolwithoutracism-europe.org).
Alternatively, the group may wish to move on from a discussion
about racism to considering other forms of discrimination. The
activity, "Where do you
stand?" in the all different all equal education
pack is a good way to get people thinking about issues and
| Definitions of
Racism, in general terms, consists of conduct or words or practices which advantage
or disadvantage people because of their colour, culture
or ethnic origin. Its more subtle forms are as damaging
as its overt form.
Institutionalised racism is
the collective failure of an organisation to provide an
appropriate and professional service to people because of
their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or
detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amounts
to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance,
thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantages
people from ethnic minorities. Racist incidents and harassment
can take place in any institution, regardless of the numbers
of pupils from different ethnic backgrounds within it.
A racist incident is any incident
which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other
| What kind of incidents
may be considered racist?
The following list of actions
may be considered to be racist incidents.
Physical harassment: comprises
the more obvious examples of violent attacks or physical
intimidation of both children and adults from minority groups,
as well as incidents of "minor" intimidation which
may be cumulative in effect.
Verbal harassment: name-calling
directed at those from minority groups and any ridicule
of a person's background or culture (e.g. music, dress or
diet) may be the most obvious examples. There may be other
forms of verbal abuse, which are less obvious, involving
teachers, pupils or other adults, such as off-the-cuff remarks
of a racist nature, which cause offence.
Non co-operation and disrespect:
refusal to co-operate with or show respect to minority pupils,
students, teachers, trainers, youth leaders and others by
people in the school/education community may constitute
a racist incident if there is evidence of racist motivation
or if the "victim" perceives racism to be a motive.
Disrespect can also be inadvertent, for example if a teacher
or trainer shows ignorance of a pupil's cultural practices
in a way that makes the victim feel harassed or uncomfortable.
Other incidents: racist jokes
and use of racist vocabulary, the wearing of racist insignia,
badges, T shirts, etc., racist graffiti, the distribution
of racist literature or posters, the presence of racist
or fascist organisations in or around the school community,
or stereotyping by adults which could lead to discrimination.
Many racist incidents will be
of a less obvious type. Such insidious actions which occur
are often the most difficult to detect and deal with. Many
racist incidents involving pupils or students will not occur
in the presence of teachers or adults. It is therefore important
that schools develop strategies to ensure that all members
of the school community are sensitive to, and take responsibility
for, reporting and dealing with incidents.
| Some practical
points for consideration in relation to developing an anti-racist
In dealing with racial harassment
and racist incidents, a whole school (organisation) approach
to policy development and implementation is required. It
is important that approaches to racist incidents fit in
with general school/organisational policy and practice.
The issues should be regarded as "special but not separate".
Some practical points for consideration are:
- A clear statement
of policy needs to be made showing that no racist incidents
or racial harassment will be tolerated.
- In the policy, the
school should make a clear statement as to the procedures
that should be followed when a racist incident occurs.
- The whole school approach,
including processes and agreed actions for dealing with
incidents, must extend to all members of the school community:
governors, staff (teaching and non-teaching), parents,
pupils, students and visitors.
- There must be clear
understanding that everyone in the school community has
a responsibility to monitor and tackle racial harassment
and racist incidents.
- There should be a
consistency of approach so that everyone involved is aware
of what is expected of them.
- It should be understood
that a response to an incident should be made at the time
the incident occurs or is reported.
- Any follow up responses
to an incident should be made within an agreed time-scale.
incident - Role-play card
Improvise a very short role-play based on the following
incident. It should be presented in three short scenes as
indicated below. In the breaks, the facilitator(s) will
ask the observers to write down their thoughts about what
Scene one. Two teachers chatting in the staff room.
Over the last month there have been several incidents
of pickpocketing in the school. Once again money is missing.
The headteacher is determined to get to the bottom of it
and involves the teachers in trying to identify the thief.
Abdallah, a pupil whose family is originally from Northern
Africa is suspected of being responsible, at least for the
Scene two. The conversation between Abdallah's father
and the headteacher.
The headteacher invites Abdallah's father to a meeting.
As a result, Abdallah's father reimburses the full sum that
was stolen to the headteacher.
Scene three. The two teachers are again chatting
in the staff room.
That Abdallah's father paid is viewed by the teachers
as an admission of Abdallah's guilt. Later however, they
find evidence that Abdallah had nothing to do with the stealing.
incident - guidelines for the facilitator
Let the volunteers perform their
role-play. At the breaks, you should interject with the
questions and ask the observers to write down a couple of
key words which summarise their response at that stage in
Scene one: Over the last
month there have been several incidents of pickpocketing
in the school. Once again money is missing. The headteacher
is determined to get to the bottom of it and involves the
teachers in trying to identify the thief. Abdallah, a pupil
whose family is originally from Northern Africa is suspected
of being responsible, at least for the latest incident.
First break. First question
to the observers: If you were the headteacher, what would
Scene two: The headteacher
invites Abdallah's father to a meeting. As a result, Abdallah's
father reimburses the full sum that was stolen to the headteacher.
Second break: Second
question to the observers: Do you think the matter has been
Scene three: The teachers
view this as an admission that the thief was actually Abdallah.
Later, however, they find evidence that Abdallah had nothing
to do with the stealing.
Third break. Third question
to the observers: What do you think now?