Universities Scotland

Race Equality Toolkit

Learning and Teaching

Setting the Context

#3Approaches to avoid

In race equality discourse, the following concepts are generally recognised as being unhelpful in achieving race equality:


A situation where individuals are expected to leave behind their distinctive identity in order to fit in with the values, attitudes and behaviours of a dominant group or culture — e.g. curriculum content does not acknowledge cultural, ethnic, linguistic or other forms of diversity but expects students to fit into the dominant cultural norm.


Ignoring or denying the experience or presence of minority groups and behaving as though they did not exist — e.g. “I do not see their colour or their culture, to me they are all students, here to learn”.


The participation of minority groups is made difficult or impossible because of the ethos or approach — e.g. curriculum content does not recognise the validity of experiences learnt outwith a Scottish context, making it difficult or impossible for some students to share experiences or lessons learnt from elsewhere.


Issues of racial discrimination are avoided and only non-controversial issues are dealt with — e.g. students wishing to explicitly discuss issues related to racism are denied the space to speak, in favour of students who wish to concentrate on discussing issues of culture, diversity or inclusion.


The experiences or expectations of one group (usually the most powerful group) are made the yardstick for misleading or invidious comparisons with other groups — e.g. curriculum content that privileges Eurocentric notions of presence, validity, truth, sensibility, identity as “given” — the commonsense notion.


Consideration of a topic is given from the viewpoint of only one group (often the majority group), resulting in a distorted view of reality — e.g. “the busy and bustling streets of Edinburgh” but “the overcrowded and congested streets of Mumbai” — a description which if read uncritically could create a negative stereotype of Mumbai.

Blaming the victim

Those who are suffering discrimination are seen to be the “problem” and are made to bear responsibility for the fact that discrimination is taking place — e.g. seeing the minority ethnic person/culture/language as the problem: “The reason they fall behind is because they just stick within their groups rather than joining in”.


Treating those who are in the minority with condescension or pity, rather than acting to ensure that their dignity and rights are upheld and respected, and thus displaying one’s sense of greater worth or importance — e.g. “I feel sorry that their religion does not enable them as women to join in the field trip” rather than looking for possible variations that might enable participation e.g. organising single-sex options, or having a female director of studies or supervisor.


Describing an individual in terms of the supposed characteristics of a group, and thereby making assumptions about their likely behaviour — e.g. “Most minority ethnic students prefer to group together rather than socialise with the majority”.


Referring to the experience or lifestyle of minority ethnic people/groups in a trivial or marginal way, and thinking that, by this being done, racial inequality is being redressed — e.g. incorporating key black minority ethnic figures or showing special events/examples from different countries and cultures only as a one-off seen as irrelevant to the mainstream curriculum.


Using someone or a situation for one’s own advantage — e.g. referring all race-related matters to minority minority ethnic of staff within the school or department.


A remark made by someone in the majority group to amuse his/her peers, which contains a hidden insult or disagreeable suggestion about an individual or group which is based on a stereotype — e.g. jokes or comments often made about certain categories of people to elicit laughter or derision: “promoting good race relations with international students — well we better take up belly dancing as part of CPD… ”.