Advice For Discrimination?

From time to time, questions and comments come up about foreigners experiencing discrimination or worse because of their nationality, religion, race, etc. (and I’ve posted about it also here and here). I recently decided against profiling a certain country in the Spotlights on section after finding multiple online reports of physical attacks on black individuals – immigrants, travelers or others working there. Obviously I think this kind of behavior is not okay – with any travel there is an element of accepting the way of life elsewhere, but at the same time, some things are just wrong wherever they happen. I don’t believe that someone opposed to discrimination is “culturally insensitive” or unreasonably unwilling to accept a different culture. Nor do I think that discrimination is necessarily a way of life in countries where it does happen – though, if it goes unpunished or unquestioned, in my mind this certainly does reflect on the country as a whole.

Sometimes the answer given by people who do not experience that discrimination is “just don’t go if you know about it” (and closely conjoined is “you have no right to complain if you decide to go anyway.”) It seems rather obvious that yes, a person is more likely to have an enjoyable experience in a place where they are not discriminated against. And while I would most certainly respect the decision of a person who decided not to go for fear of discrimination or threats to their physical safety, and would not want to advise someone to throw caution about their mental or physical well-being to the wind, this “don’t go or don’t complain” from people who don’t experience that discrimination upsets me. It doesn’t matter if there is racism somewhere – it’s still wrong, and is not somehow lessened by “you knew what you were in for”. You can tie this attitude to various historical and relatively current events and it’s not pretty.

I don’t really have an answer as to how people – current and potential teachers and people in general – should ideally respond to this, except to acknowledge those who make the effort to do what they’d like to do without letting the risk (or reality) of discrimination slow them down. I think when we see examples of discrimination, we should be outraged, and not just relegate it to “Well, that happens there, it’s part of the culture and there’s nothing you can do about it, so don’t get yourself worked up.”