Radio Kunterbund - Program on the topic of discrimination

Interview with Saphir Ben Dakon

Radio Kunderbund, a program on the Bernese radio station RaBe, interviewed me on the subject of discrimination. My statements can be found below in writing and in audio. The interview starts at 5:15.

I would like to thank Alex and the whole team for the invitation!

What is discrimination?

"Discrimination is an act that can happen in words and behavior that belittles individuals or groups of people based on characteristics such as gender, disability, skin color. And this kind of belittling happens because of stereotypes and prejudices and is not a reaction to a person's actions. Discrimination is a mechanism that aims to use real and fictitious differences as a "weapon" to exclude people from society as a whole and prevent them from participating. But it also separates individual groups of people from one another. Discrimination happens in all areas of life. However, it can be divided into the societal level when it comes to structural discrimination, but it can also be observed on a personal level, for example when two people or groups of people talk to each other. But there is also internalized discrimination, when victims of discrimination believe the things that others say about them. I experience discrimination as a person, as a woman with disabilities. It can happen to me that people make discriminatory statements in public who don't even know me. However, it also happens in my personal environment. Family and friends can also be discriminatory. With disabilities, it is often the case that people want to make supposed compliments, but they package discrimination. One example of such discrimination is "inspiration porn". This is a form of discrimination in which people with disabilities are objectified and labeled as particularly inspiring for everyday things, such as standing at the bus stop. The opposite is pity porn. For example, when people say to me, I'm very sorry about how you have to live. And it's great that they're here anyway. The umbrella term for this discrimination is called ableism. As a result, people don't listen to me at all, but have images in their heads during the conversation of what life with disabilities is like and what people with disabilities should be like. This sometimes makes it difficult to enter into a dialog with people. After all, what can you say in response to such statements? I don't see it as my life's work to educate people. Dealing with discrimination is my own responsibility and I have on average just as much time in my life as other people, so it's not my job to give every single person a free lesson in discrimination. I always weigh up what is the effort and what is the return.

When and how does discrimination happen?

Of course, when people have the feeling that a person or their life is inferior, this naturally leads to a lack of respect in personal interactions. But it has to be said quite clearly that this can also be linked to other factors. Disability is only one factor. Intersectionality seems very important to me here. I am also a woman with disabilities, my family, as you can see from the name, lives with a history of migration. There are other factors that can lead to discrimination. In practice, it is difficult to differentiate. Do people not take me seriously because I am 1.50m tall or because I have a disability, live with a migration history or am a woman? I also notice this when I take part in events. I'm often referred to by my name and people expect "less" of me because of it. Forms of discrimination can also be mutually reinforcing and make it more difficult for a person to participate in society. You should pay attention to this. Because I find it very difficult when everything is attributed to the disability and the person is then their disability and the disability is then the person. That's exactly what we don't want, because that's what discrimination does.

What would you like to see in relation to this topic?

I would like us to rethink our idea of a normal standard. Ableism is based on the idea of a normal standard and justifies the right to exclude people. And I would therefore like society as a whole to ask itself whether this normal standard even exists. We should take a more critical look here. And then I would like everyone who encounters others to look at themselves to see why they discriminate. This self-reflection makes sense together with further education. In the context of disability, you quickly realize that people are afraid of becoming disabled and being disabled. From these images in their heads that life with disabilities is not worth living, they reject this status for themselves. These fears give rise to aggression and hostility towards people with disabilities. So I would like everyone to take responsibility for themselves and look a little less at others. That would also help with other social issues.