Blog – Invisible Prejudice

By Nadia Freeman

As a person who identifies as having at least three protected characteristics, the topic of prejudice sits very close to home.  I had hoped that over the past three decades the types of discrimination I had faced would not exist for young people today. However, sadly in my time working on the Action Prejudice project, I came to realise that young people in Scotland are still facing prejudice-related bullying and hate crime because of their abilities, faith, race, sexuality and gender identity.

I believe one of the biggest effects that prejudice can have is having no sense of belonging.  Often when people are made to feel unwelcome there is quite simply no alternative place to go. For example, if it is your workplace or school you still have to continue to turn up and get on with life despite being aware of the contempt people may have for you for simply being who you are.  For me, the impact of being told to ‘go home’ or ‘to where you came from’ never ceases to bring out old vulnerabilities. I am mixed race, I was not born in India, so while some may believe that I ‘do not belong here’. I am left to wonder, then where do I belong? This sense of ‘not belonging’ has the potential to further marginalise people as they become excluded from society.

But sadly the most harmful kinds of prejudice do not wave a flag to let you know when it is being inflicted upon you.  When I was young, I had assumed that the reason class mates would steal my pens and workbooks, spread rumours, exclude me from activities and ensure I always at a disadvantage was because they didn’t like me.  It wasn’t until I was much older that some of the ringleaders made it more apparent that their treatment of me was because of my race.

This type of ‘invisible’ prejudice continues into adulthood.  It impacts on acceptance into courses, job opportunities and whether we are more likely to be charged with a criminal conviction.  Sadly this less obvious form of prejudice, that may not always be intentional, has the greatest impact. It affects the socio-economic status and opportunities of minority groups. It halts the progress of acceptance as people face barriers to leadership positions that could influence change; such as boards of directors, council representatives, politicians and media personalities.  There is a real need for more representation of minority groups to provide role models for our young people and to activate change and acceptance in our society.

The cartoon used on this page was also created by Nadia and you can view it and more in her blog ‘Things that aren’t racist’

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