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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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We all witness discrimination, prof says

By Jonathan Ng

By willing to be active witnesses and confront discrimination when they see it, people can help combat discriminatory attitudes, said Ishu Ishiyama, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of British Columbia.

Ishiyama presented reasons why discrimination exists and the consequences that arise from such behavior during a lecture on Monday at the Social Work Auditorium.

“The racist belief is a certain belief that one race is superior to another,” Ishiyama said. This is because certain groups are thought of as a menace to society or obstacles to the development of civilization, she said. These groups can be ethnic as well as other minority groups, Ishiyama said.

“There is a vicious cycle of social system that is highly resistant to change,” Ishiyama said.

Ishiyama explained the differences in types of discrimination. Prejudice is an attitude judgment, stereotyping is a cognitive bias, discrimination is a behavioral treatment, and systematic racism and oppression are embedded within society through sociopolitical, institutional and legislative ways.

Whether you are an offender or a victim of discrimination, everyone is a witness, Ishiyama said.

Ishiyama used video clips and scenario examples to portray the different ways people are discriminated against. To address the discrimination, Ishiyama discussed the four levels of witnessing. Diswitnessing, when a person is not really aware of the situation, and passive witnessing, when a person is aware but does not take action, are the first two levels in which persons do not respond to a discriminatory act.

After the lecture, Ishiyama joined a panel in a short discussion. Tifani Holloway, a first-year student in the social work program, was enlightened by the models of antidiscrimination response presented in the lecture.

“(The antidiscrimination response models) show how practical and simple dramatic change can be,” Holloway said. “Sometimes in social work, power and oppression seem so complex and we seem so powerless.”

Holloway is also part of the organization Voices of Diversity, which sponsored the event along with the College of Social Work. Previous lecture topics included class, race and refugees. Next year’s social justice series will focus on ableism and disabilities. For more information, visit

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