Dealing with discrimination: what it is, and how to cope
What to do if you are being discriminated against
"59% of Irish people said they did not want to live beside a Traveller"
Discrimination is when you aren’t treated as well as others because of a supposed difference. Yet legally, everyone has equal rights. We are all born equal regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Sadly, some people have different views and opinions on this matter, some more extreme than others.
Who experiences discrimination?
People are often discriminated against because of their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, family status, civil status, because they have a disability, or because they are a member of the Travelling community.
These people often experience abuse, isolation, discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis and don’t have the same access to services (transport, jobs etc.) as the majority of the population.
The effects of discrimination and prejudice can be severe. They can include feelings of loneliness, depression, anger and even suicide. Discrimination can easily be avoided if we all respect each other and ensure that the law is applied equally.
Discrimination is about difference
- You might be a different religion, ethnic group or colour to the majority of people around you. Discrimination causes massive problems all over the world. In Ireland, we see discrimination in our attitude to the Traveller community, hate crimes against immigrants and the Troubles in Northern Ireland between opposing communities.
- Statements like "Female employees have to wear skirts" or "We don’t allow Travellers into this bar" are all discrimination.
- Discrimination can be any requirement that put people at an unfair disadvantage. For example, it’s discrimination for a college to require that students are fluent in Irish when it’s clearly not needed for the course. Or for an employer to insist that you must have qualifications obtained in Ireland or the UK.
- Discrimination can also be less noticeable, such as when work or education conditions mean that one group or people are favoured (men, women, Irish, Catholic and so on). This is indirect discrimination and includes stuff like job advertisements looking for waitresses (making you think that men can’t apply) or being fired because you refused to discriminate against other people as part of your job (not serving immigrants or Travellers for example).
- Legally, you cannot be discriminated against in employment and training, education, transport, financial matters, entertainment, socialising or housing.
Help prevent discrimination:
- Others should respect your opinions and views, but you have to respect their opinions and views as well.
- Don’t decide what you think of someone because they have a disability, are LGBT or because they are a different race, ethnicity or religion to you. Make an effort to get to know someone before you decide what they’re like.
- Be open when meeting new people. If you respect them and listen to everyone’s views (people with disabilities, immigrants, Travellers, you name it) you’ll realise that prejudices and stereotypes are narrow minded.
- Make an effort to get to know and learn more about local ethnic, religious and cultural minorities. Organise multicultural events like world-food nights or traditional dance nights.
- Don’t let your friends make insulting comments or jokes that discriminate against others. Tell them they are being narrow minded and prejudiced.
- If you or someone you know is being discriminated against, then speak out. Keeping quiet won’t make it go away.
- Make an official complaint in writing to your school/university or workplace. Keep a copy of the letter.
- An employer can’t punish you if you report them for harassment or discrimination. This means it’s illegal for them to fire you or treat you differently after you make a formal complaint.
- If you are a victim of discrimination or harassment (or see it happening) in a public place like a shop, restaurant, pub, cinema or nightclub then report it to the management. If they don’t act, report it to the Gardaí or Police.
- If you see that someone else is discriminated against, do something about it! You can report discrimination and harassment to the Gardaí or Police.
- Support anti discrimination and harassment organisations.
The European RED (Rights Equality and Diversity) Network has just set up a new website that allows people to record and monitor incidences of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in their countries. It functions as a way for people to see how various European countries treat minorities, immigrants and people of different races. The website is run by the Institute for Rights, Equality and Diversity (i-RED) in Greece.
It features a map with symbols that detail incidences and issues in a country and how these are being dealt with. The blue symbols stand for ‘case studies’, the green symbols stand for ‘policy responses’ and the orange symbols for ‘racist and hate crime alerts’.