28 March, 2014

In it Together: Why Prejudice Towards my Neighbor is Bad News for Me, Too

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Category: Discrimination, European Action Week, Guest writer, Racism
Gubaz Koberidze
11 am


By Jane Braden-Golay

Jane is the president of the European Union of Jewish Students, a Brussels-based umbrella organization representing 35 national Jewish student unions in Europe. She is from Switzerland, and studies Religious Studies, Education and Public Law.

Anyone who has ever experienced hate, prejudice and exclusion knows how difficult it can be to not let it take over one’s sense of self. It can become a veritable battle to transform the experience into clear-eyed action against it, especially if the experience is repeated and begins to affect a community longterm. Hate consumes: Certainly those who hate, but also those who are hated. It affects, at times even defines, an invididual’s and community’s sense of place in society and history. Discrimination attacks at the very core, at the most personal level, and seeks to cancel out individuality, identity and agency. It isolates groups and communities from each other. It can cause people to believe that they are alone in combating the prejudice against them and their community.

A 2009 study on Group-focused Enmity (GFE) in eight European countries confirmed that different types of prejudices are strongly linked (in the study, prejudices are understood as the negative evaluation of groups and of individuals because of their – factual or perceived – group membership). The data from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Hungary revealed strong interrelations between anti-immigrant attitudes, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim attitudes, racism, sexism, and prejudice towards homosexual persons. The researchers speak of a Group-focused Enmity Syndrome. The common core appears to be mainly triggered by an ideology of inequality. Prejudices are used to legitimize social inequality.

Five years after this study, the overall economic situation in Europe has worsened, and populism and extremism is on the rise. Cyber hate has poured oil into the fire. Voters turn to xenophobic populist parties, even though they may not be committed supporters.

JaneTherefore, our only real option in turning these developments around is a determined alliance of individuals and communities that defends universal Human Rights, demonstrates solidarity and recognizes the interrelatedness of prejudice. We gain by refusing to let discrimination and hatred divide our communities. We move forward by combatting prejudice in our society – That is: If we commit to combating every form of prejudice amongst us, consistently and relentlessly. By transforming our vision of an inclusive society into action, we lay the foundation on which it can grow.

We need to send a strong message to communities and activists that there is a bigger issue at hand, and that it needs to be addressed in its entirety. Ideologies of inequality are bad news for us all, even though they may first manifest themselves e.g. as sexist or anti-immigrant attitudes. So in light of this European Action Week against Racism, I urge you to:

  1. Share the findings of the study (http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/ikg/zick/Press%20release%2013Nov_english.pdf) with your friends, family and colleagues.
  2. Reserve one Facebook post or tweet for a demonstration of solidarity with a community other than your own, under hashtags: #NoHateSpeech, #InItTogether
  3. Build local and online alliances with others fighting discrimination and prejudice in all its expressions.


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