Every minute a college student somewhere sees or hears racist, sexist, homophobic or other discriminatory words or images.
You are hanging out with teammates and one of them makes a very insulting and derogatory remark about someone’s alleged sexual orientation. They go on to sarcastically say that they definitely won’t be rooming with them on road trips.
You find it inappropriate. What do you do?
- Have you ever been discriminated against? What happened?
- Do you think student-athletes are discriminated against? How? Why? Do they also sometimes experience reverse discrimination (i.e., preferential treatment)? How? Why?
- Do you think people sometimes discriminate more based on their perception that individuals had a choice in their condition as opposed to something that was out of their control (e.g., genetics)? Discuss.
- Is the criticism against rap music/lyrics, justified? Do you use similar language? If so, have you considered what impact that might have on children who view you as a role model or others who hear it?
- Do men or women talk about the other gender in negative/derogatory ways in public?
- Has society changed its attitudes toward same sex relationships? If so, in what ways? How is discrimination against a LGBT student different from other forms of discrimination?
- To what degree and in what ways do you think international students experience prejudice and discrimination? What other groups may experience discrimination? How so? Give examples.
- Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? Did you consider how someone else might take it (Perspective Taking)?
- How does a power differential (e.g., coach/professor) affect how or if you approach an individual?
Definitions and Considerations
- Stereotype:An oversimplified generalization about a person or a group of people without regard for individual differences.
- Stereotypes can be positive (e.g., “Men are naturally gifted athletes”) or negative (“Student-athletes are not serious about school”). Stereotypes are often based on a “kernel of truth,” (e.g., observation of group tendencies). However, they are often applied inaccurately when making judgments about an individual or a set of individuals from that group.
- Prejudice: An attitude, opinion or feeling without adequate prior knowledge, thought or reason.
- Example: “They look like a bunch of nappy headed hoes” (Don Imus, talk show host fired after these comments).
- Example: “I hate gay people” (Tim Hardaway, former NBA player).
- Discrimination: Differential treatment based on unfair categorization. It is a denial of fairness prompted by prejudice.
- Specific forms of discrimination: racism, sexism, classism, ageism, homophobia, etc.
- People can discriminate because of prejudice, stereotypes, or both.
Issues to Consider Before STEPPING UP
- Identify the bias: Is it prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, or a combination?
- Form a goal based on the source of bias:
- Change negative beliefs (stereotypes).
- Change negative attitudes/emotions (prejudice).
- Change discriminatory behavior (with or without changing stereotypes or prejudice).
- Determine the safest and most effective way to address the bias: Decide when and where to try and address the bias (in private not in public). ** When considering how to proceed, always consider the costs and consequences for long-term relationships with everyone involved.
- Choose a strategy to Step UP!
Reduce the tension: Form a goal based on the source of bias: Before addressing the bias more explicitly, you can try to reduce the tension at the start:
- To lighten the mood, tell the person a funny story about something unrelated.
- Compliment the person or share something you have in common with him/her.
- Ask the person to talk positively about him/herself.
Research indicates that such strategies can start to reduce the biases that people hold and will make them more open minded about discussing the issues with you.
Individuation approaches: Try to get the person to see others as individuals rather than as members of a disliked group:
- Highlight things about a targeted group’s member that are different from most people’s perception.
- Volunteer information about a targeted group’s member so that the person could get to know them as an individual.
Categorization or Common Identity approaches: Try to get others to see that the targeted group is similar to others and shares similar goals:
- Highlight traits and interests that the person and the targeted group share in common.
- Discuss issues that affect both the person and the targeted group to create perception of a “common enemy” and to view the targeted group in terms of a greater common group.
- Think of other ways to get the person to see the situation from a different perspective.
Confrontational approaches: You can directly address the bias by making the individuals aware of how their statement represents a bias or is inconsistent with their egalitarian values.
WARNING: Confrontation can make the biased person angry and may cause him or her to lash out or seek revenge. This approach should RARELY be used.
- Identify a statement as a potential bias.
- Ask the individuals if they value diversity and then remind them of ways in which they might unfairly stereotype others.
- Ask the persons if they believe that all people should be treated equally and then point out how their views contradict these values.
- Ask: Did you really mean what you just said? (Also see Action Steps listed below).
Coming to Terms with Your Own Biases
- Be respectful of all individuals and their viewpoints.
- Listen to what individuals’ lives are like and the experiences they’ve had in the world.
- Accept that you are responsible for any of your negative reactions.
- Don’t rush the process of trying to understand a person’s experiences or identity.
- Don’t criticize people for being different.
- Don’t force your values on others.
- Develop trust and openness and allow people to be who they are without pressure or judgment.
Note: It is inconsistent to suffer the consequences and want to fight prejudice from a race/class/ gender standpoint but then to practice it yourself against any others.
Did you know…?
- Being the target of prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination manifests itself negatively in both the mental and physical health of those who experience it.
- According to our survey, almost 70% of student-athletes have witnessed discrimination in some form over the last year:
- 96% are bothered by it.
- 99% believe something should be done.
- Be Ready– You know at some point you will hear or see something that is inappropriate or discriminatory. Think of yourself as the one to Step UP!, prepare yourself for it and know what you will say. “Why do you say that?” or “Do you really mean what you just said?”
- Identify the Behavior – Point out someone’s behavior to help them hear what they are really saying. “So, what I hear you saying is that all student-athletes don’t care about academics?”
- Appeal to Principles – Call on a person’s higher principles. “I’ve always thought you were fair-minded. It shocks me to hear you say something so biased.”
- Set Limits – Draw a Line – You can’t control others but you can make others aware of what you will not tolerate. “Don’t tell racist jokes or use that language in my presence anymore. If you do, I will leave.” Follow through.
- Find an Ally/Be an Ally – Seek out like-minded people and build strength in numbers.
Adapted from Tolerance.org (n.d.). A web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Coach, Assistant Coach, Athletic Directors, Administrators, Advisors, and/or Athletic Trainers
Academic Advisor/Provost or Dean of College if university policy is violated
- NCAA Diversity and Inclusion
- Understanding Prejudice
- Teaching Tolerance
- The Civil Rights Coalition for the 21st Century
- Project Implicit
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Anti Defamation League
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
- Human Rights Watch
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- National Organization for Women
- Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)