Anti-racism training: tolerance and fair play – not only on the football field
Anti-racism training teaches participants about the effects of prejudice and racist thinking and about the possible ways of dealing with discrimination and intolerance.
It is just before the kick-off. Tension is running high in the stadium. Italy versus Germany. Fans across the world are waiting for the semi-final of Euro 2012 to begin. Gianluigi Buffon and Philipp Lahm come up to the microphone. The captains of the two teams in the semi-finals read out a message against racism. ‘We are one team regardless of our religion or ethnic background,’ says Buffon. ‘Nationality, religion, sex or sexual orientation play no role in football,’ adds Lahm.
The message is part of the Respect Diversity initiative launched by UEFA together with the FARE network – Football Against Racism in Europe. Racially motivated violence and the chanting of far-right slogans in football stadiums are a matter of concern for both the players and the fans. But what exactly is racism? How can anti-racism training help create awareness about diversity and tolerance that goes beyond the football field too?
Anti-racism training: understanding and acting
There is no doubt that abusing people of colour, as happened in the run-up to Euro 2012, is openly racist and is rejected by most people. Anti-racism training, however, starts at a much earlier stage by asking when racist thinking begins in our lives. Children’s rhymes such as ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, moe’ and ‘Ten little Indians’ show that children at an early age start differentiating and judging people according to the colour of their skin. To make people aware of their own thought patterns, anti-racism training takes a look at personal experiences.
This is also true of the programmes initiated by the A.R.T. project, which are aimed primarily at school children on whose lives and interests the programmes are based. Various methods and work materials, such as role plays and films, are used to get the participants to start questioning their ways of thinking and their prejudices – both positive and negative. They also discuss the effects of racist thinking and ways of reducing racism in our society. Teachers interested in the project can order an ‘A.R.T. suitcase’, for example, which helps students in year 7 or 8 prepare for a project day on the subject of ‘others among us’.
Us versus them: discrimination and racism
‘Women and technology just don’t mix.’ This saying, which is meant to be derogatory, really sums things up. As with discrimination against women, racism does not see people as individuals but rather as members of a group. Once individuals have been assigned to a group, they are then attributed certain qualities and characteristics, which are usually degrading. Racist behaviour involves judging, marginalising, discriminating against or attacking somebody else on the basis of his or her appearance, origin or culture.
Even if categorising people according to race is now scientifically passé, as UNESCO, for example, declares in its stand on racism, discrimination and prejudice continue to persist. This is why explaining and understanding the correlations between prejudice and racist thinking and action is so important, in addition to becoming aware of one’s own thought patterns. Besides conducting anti-racism training programmes, the anti-racism information centre ARIC-NRW e.V. therefore also offers extensive information on the topics of racism, discrimination, school and violence, and inter-cultural and anti-racist education.
Knowledge and practical exercises for fostering greater civil courage
Being more aware of the way we think also helps us recognise the racist and discriminatory attitudes and behaviour of others. This is what ARIC builds on while developing the participants’ personal capacity and broadening their scope for action. Training in civil courage helps them learn to assess threatening situations, to perceive their own fears, to understand the limits of intervention options, and to apply de-escalation strategies and creative solutions to situations of conflict. Teachers, social education workers and civil society initiatives seeking to do something against discrimination and racism can organise an anti-racist training course themselves. The database at the Gewalt Akademie Villigst, Germany, has information about the different programmes that are offered as well as the contact details of the trainers.
Follow-up training programmes conducted by the society Phoenix e.V. examine how people perceive everyday life differently after completing an anti-racism training course. After all, being aware of one’s own way of thinking and constant introspection are prerequisites for bringing about change – beyond the football field too.