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Discrimination based on race affects millions of workers worldwide. Ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, Roma, nationals of foreign origin and migrant workers are among the most affected. It is not only these ethnic and racial minorities who suffer when racial discrimination is tolerated at the workplace. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: “Racial discrimination harms not only those who are its objects but also those who practice it”.
The elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation and the promotion of equality have been at the core of the work of the International Labor Organization since 1919. It is a fundamental principle and right at work, and is enshrined in the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111). The obligation of all ILO Members to respect, promote and realize this principle was reaffirmed in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, adopted by the International Labor Conference in 1998.
Managing Race diversity in workplace
The work place is the good place to start the fight against discriminations. Managing race diversity through training, social dialogue is a good way to face racial discrimination and to make employers and workers able to understand the concepts and to deal with it. It is important to design, implement ant survey the workplace policy in order to promote race diversity.
“Employing a diverse workforce – and managing it effectively – not only satisfies legal and ethical obligations, but is also good for business. Research shows that non-discrimination efforts can cut costs and increase revenue.
Having a policy in place to accommodate workers from diverse backgrounds not only minimizes the negative potential legal and financial consequences, but is also key to the enterprise’s adaptability, growth, sustainability and competitive edge” (ILO,2014)
Situation in Lebanon
The issue of racism in Lebanon was never a new issue. Different studies conducted in Lebanon have clearly shown that the issue of racism in the country is in a clear ascendance, especially towards foreign and domestic workers (Abdulrahim, 2010) (Russeau, 2011) (Kerbaj, 2013). The studies show that workers of different nationalities have been the targets of different types of discriminatory practices, including verbal discrimination and verbal stereotypes. A Somali young girl in Lebanese school reports that she has been called names at school, such as “black” and “Sri Lankan” because of her dark skin color (Kerbaj, 2013). Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau says that there are ’17 out of 30 private beach resorts admitted to having a policy of denying African and Asian domestic workers admission into the pools’ (Russeau, 2011). The Lebanese deny the presence of racism and discrimination in the society and qualify it as a point of view.
Racism during the French Colonization in Lebanon
The origin of racism in Lebanon, and the Middle East, goes back to the European colonization period that began in the 17th century and continued until the 1960s. The European colonization and the promotion of the Christian religion empowered the notion of the supremacy of white race. The French colonization of Lebanon (1920-1946) “empowered” the European ideology of the supremacy of the white race within the Lebanese community as a result of socio-political interaction between the Lebanese and the French in that period. In addition, the French military forces, according to Elizabeth Thompson, hired Senegalese soldiers of black race, and used them to ‘destroy villages, abuse Lebanese families, and to punish outraged demonstration’ (Thompson, 2000). Thompson mentions in her book Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon that some parents, and in order to scare their children, used to say: ‘The Senegalese will come to you now’ (Thompson, 2000). There for the image of a black man in the mind the
Lebanese is related to savagery and barbarian acts.
Nowadays, however, racism is not as exposed as it was during the colonization period. In an attempt to go with the flow of the new millennium’s globalization and the notion of being opened to all cultures and races on a hand, and suppressing the inherited notions of racism, the Lebanese find themselves in an ‘dilemma of ideologies’ (Billig, 1988).
These ideologies influenced the educational field as a part of the whole community.
Accepting students in Lebanese schools and hiring teachers with different races is not a simple matter. While there is no legal barrier to hire teachers with different skin color, the ideologies of the society and the stereotypes make the mission too difficult.
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