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4 strategies to deal with prejudice when travelling

SPEAK OUT by Amy Clarke

 

A few days back I told you the story of one of the most enlightening moments in my life in regards to racial prejudice. It is an issue that still baffels me at times as it may occure in the most unexpected moments or settings. However, I found that when travelling it is often harder to deal with then when you counter it at home. I therefore compiled here my top four strategies to deal with racial or other prejudice while on the road:

1) Question

Ask the person you presume to be having racial prejudice how he or she meant what was said as sometimes something totally innocent may be misinterpreted due to a clumsy choice of words or lack of context. The language you are communicating in may be neither your nor their first language and things may just have gotten lost in translation. It´s always better to clarify this before judgement.

2) Educate

Sometimes people make inappropriate jokes or comments, because they just don´t know any better. Often the further apart two countries are geographically and ideologically, the less their inhabitants actually know about each other and their cultures. I am a German citizen and it happened to me a couple of times, that people made jokes or comments about Hitler and the Third Reich, thinking we may still be in favour of Nazis or Hitler may actually still be alive (!). I have found that setting misinformed people straight in a kind and polite manner often goes a long way.

3) Challenge

Who does not remember one or another heated discussions with fellow travelers in the hostel kitchen or around a bonfire at the beach? Or maybe with you seat neighbour on the train or plane? Each and every one of us is coined by our culture, upbringing and society if we can admit to it or not. I therefore deeply believe that we are all biased and carry prejudice with us in one kind or another, especially if we are still only in our teens or twenties. In these cases it is often very much re-freshing and enlightening to discuss how we and others see the world in a friendly and open-minded manner.

4) Smile

I know this may sound inappropriate at first, but it may sometimes be the only way to not get in trouble and remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. This would be the case when encountering people who are obviously either extreme in their beliefs or potentially toxified with alcohol or other substances and therewith unpredictable in their reaction. Therefore, nod, smile and leave is sometimes the best reaction to racial prejudice in these circumstances.

What are your thoughts? How have you successfully or unsuccessfully dealt with racial or other prejudice in the past?

Photo Credit: Amy Clarke via http://www.flickr.com

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