Holly ThumannLast Edited: Nov 14, 2009 9:50 PM


I am guilty of the line of thinking that Peggy McIntosh mentioned in her article.  I know of the groups who are considered underprivileged, but had honestly never thought about the other people being privileged.  I knew that being a Caucasian American, I was not discriminated against racially, but had not thought about my privileges.  Something else that really came to light for me was that anytime people of color have an unfortunate experience, they have to worry about people making assumptions about their entire race.  Being cognizant of these situations will help me to be able to minimize these situations as much as I can in my classroom. 

I thought it was interesting that men will rarely admit to being privileged.  This might be because they really haven't experienced discrimination.  I have definitely experienced discrimination because of my sex.  I started my college career at Mankato as an automotive engineering and technology major.  I was the only female in the department.  In my mid twenties I worked as a service writer at a Toyota car dealership with 24 men.  So many people really didn't know how to react to me.  You could tell that they weren't sure if they could actually just leave without dealing with one of my male coworkers.  I would always get the "so that's it?"  I would always think, "yup, I wrote up the repair, explained it to you, showed you the failed part, and priced the estimate - all without a penis - amazing!"   I am sure many other women have other experiences of discrimination, which probably makes them more open to the idea of or aware of how often this discrimination occurs.  My experiences at that car dealership were incredibly mild compared to those of people of a minority race.  In this unit, I have realized just how much of a part of their life discrimination is for those of a marginalized group.  It will be critical for us as students to always be conscientious of this.

Student Activity:

Students examine the concept of discrimination.  In order to promote a more just society discrimination, which adversely affects the lives of so many people, must be recognized and addressed.

Talk about the following definitions:


Discrimination means treating someone unfairly and or differently because they happen to belong to or are perceived to belong to a particular group of people.

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination means treatment that is unfair or unequal and directed at a particular group of people or individuals belonging to that group.

Examples of direct discrimination could include arranging bus travel, without an alternative, for a school excursion, thereby excluding a student with a mobility disability who cannot board the bus, or school uniform requirements which could be in conflict with ethno-religious beliefs and practices

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is treatment that, although appearing to be fair and not directed at any particular group, has the effect of producing unequal outcomes. Indirect discrimination may arise from the policies, rules, procedures, practices and culture of an institution or system - hence the term systemic or institutional discrimination.

Examples of indirect discrimination include failure to provide support services to ensure that all individuals are able to access a service or participate in a program.

Affirmative discrimination

Anti-discrimination legislation allows for exemptions from the legislation in certain circumstances. Employers and educators are allowed to put affirmative measures in place in favour of individuals or groups who have been disadvantaged in the past.


Appropriate discrimination
1. If you had the choice of a banana, a pear or some grapes to eat, which would you choose and why?
2. If you had to choose between buying blue jeans or black, which would you choose and why?
3. If you had to pick a book from the library to read, what type of book would you pick? Why would you pick that type rather than one on a different subject?
Help students understand that each of the above acts is one of discrimination, i.e. differentiating among various objects, and in each case it is possible to offer sound reasons for the action. It should be noted that none of these acts of discrimination is potentially harmful to other people.

Socially harmful discrimination
Next, explore types of harmful discrimination that are rooted in prejudices. Questions similar to the following might trigger discussion:
1. If you were starting a fashion or football club, would you open membership to both boys and girls?
2. If you were an employer and were hiring a new worker, would you hire someone twenty-five or fifty-five years of age?
3. Would you avoid being friends with someone because of their cultural or religious background?
4. Should children who are disabled be educated in separate schools?

Help students think about the effects on others.

Having explored acceptable and unacceptable types of discrimination, have students write an exposition maintaining their point of view on one of the examples of discrimination discussed.

Reference: http://www.racismnoway.com