by In Wales
Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 06:30:37 AM EST
I was grudgingly send off on diversity training for my organisation earlier this week. I have been diversity trained half to death already and it has never been good training. However, this time I was genuinely impressed.
The trainer focussed on prejudice. How we all develop our biases and prejudices, how we can be aware of them and aware of how we 'leak' them, and where possible to reduce or eliminate some of the prejudices that we hold. Always bearing in mind that we can never be prejudice-free but we can be conscious of our behaviour and the impact that it has on people around us.
We were introduced to the Allport scale - which much to my surprise I have absolutely never come across before. (more below)
From the diaries -- whataboutbob
It was devised by Gordon Allport in his work "The Nature of Prejudice" in 1954. To the best of my knowledge, Allport was commissioned by the US government after the war to look into the psychological causes to the Holocaust. The idea being that if the causes were understood, then actions could be put in place to prevent this from ever happening again. The report was never published by the US government because of the complexity of the causes and the near impossible nature of implementing actions to prevent the holocaust from happening again. Also in the context of the history of the lynchings of black people, and the near extermination of Native Americans, it was quite clear that the US was by no means any better than Nazi Germany in allowing such persecution of minorities to be taking place in their country.
The Allport Scale of Prejudice was set in the context of explaining how smaller behaviours, built up into what eventually became the extermination of the Jews and other minority groups. The scale was also discussed in the context of the day to day office environment to show how subtle behaviours escalate into discrimination which can have a hugely negative impact on certain individuals and groups.
This means 'speaking against'. It involves, jokes and banter, targetting particular groups eg sexist jokes in the office, or the targetting of groups such as Jewish people in name-calling and other propaganda by the Nazis. It has been suggested the the Danish cartoon fits into the antilocution part of the scale against Muslims.
The antilocution phase basically becomes the norm and a part of everyday culture that isn't really challenged or questioned. It's just how things are.
This can be physical or geographical avoidance or factual avoidance eg the denial of the holocaust. It all causes exclusion and isolation of minority groups or individuals. The removal of Jews from their homes and being placed into ghettos was a form of avoidance since the Jewish areas were known and others could avoid them.
This is unfair treatment that disadvantages or denies access to particular groups eg in housing, pay and benefits at work, medical care, jobs etc.
This wasn't in Allport's original list in the paper for the US government but was added in at a later stage because he felt that the gap between discrimination and physical attack was too large.
Subtle aggression works on an assumption of hierarchy, particularly hierarchy of power. Making the assumption that somebody has more/less knowledge based on their age, gender or race or other characteristics and deliberately excluding those who are thought to hold less power or are or less use than another. Deliberate silences or 'looks' form part of subtle agression.
This speaks for itself really, but can include attack on person or property such as, destroying belongings or papers that belong to a person, or targetting the homes of people belonging to a particular group.
The top end of the scale, in the context of the Holocaust this involved the murder of Jewish people and other groups targetted by the Nazis. In an office context this could involve a person resigning or going off sick with stress or even committing suicide as a result of the behaviour they have been subject to.
It was quite shocking for my colleagues to see the parallel drawn between something as awful as the holocaust and their own behaviour within an office environment. That office culture that exists which targets and humiliates individuals in the name of 'just having a joke' can have profound effects.
I know that should I choose to challenge somebody on their use of language or on behaviour that constitutes harrassment and so on, that they will now be far more likely to understand where I am coming from and why I don't find some behaviours appropriate.
If behaviour can be stopped at the antilocution stage, that is to change the environment of the office and to shift attitudes to create a more inclusive and respectful environment, then it is far less likely that we will find ourselves in a situation of having to manage discrimination issues or even something more severe than that.
Having legislation and good policies on equality and diversity isn't enough. Tackling people's attitudes from the core is incredibly important and this is the first time that I have come across training that has really made people genuinely think through their behaviours.
I'm guessing that any psychology people will have come across Allport - he seems to be fairly significant in the literature. He's done some work on the psychology of religion too. I'd be interested in any views on his work, since this is the first time I have come across it.
"Violence is always an outgrowth of milder states of mind" - Gordon W. Allport.