Everyone can think of at least one example of overt, blatant discrimination. These acts are the obvious kinds–spiteful or hateful words, taunts, slander, libel, hate crimes, etc. And all who recognize them as discrimination condemn such actions as immoral and hateful, at the very least. But what is sometimes worse than the overt discrimination is the covert kind–the kind that on the surface doesn’t look like discrimination, but when taken in a repeated pattern over a long enough period of time, turns out to be exactly that.
Underhanded discrimination is more along the lines of behind-the-scenes work. A piece here, a piece there, a word here, a word there. The people doing these actions may not even consciously realize that what they do is considered discrimination, and when directed toward a religious group, it is religious discrimination.
Before I had experienced the “sneaky” discrimination, as I call it, I had thought the overt acts the harder to deal with. Generally these acts are public, and sometimes it is impossible to save face or dignity of your own when faced with outright discrimination. It is hard to not fight back, to not lose your head. Sometimes it is harder to walk away than to stand and fight, but fighting would be a losing battle. Overt discrimination can leave offensive material behind for the world to see, to know.
But that is also why I now feel like overt discrimination is the easier dealt with than covert. If someone is clearly being unreasonable, and talking to them is not feasible or is a waste of energy, they can be ignored. As long as violence is not involved, ignoring the obvious taunts or hate speech is the best option (once violence is involved in discrimination then obviously over discrimination trumps sneak discrimination and requires different actions). Going overboard on the kindness is another good option, as inside you make them feel worse about what they do to you, even if they didn’t consciously realize the dynamic taking place. And there is always the hope that, with obvious and/or public displays of discrimination, other people would see and would be more reasonable, and would side with you if necessary. The proof left behind for the world to see is also proof of their unreasonableness, not your own.
Sneaky discrimination is harder to fight. Often there is no proof, or so little proof that it is almost nonexistent. If you were to gather the little proof you have, and try to show it to other people, it could be brushed aside as being nothing, and you are the one overreacting. Sneaky discrimination will not have justice, except karmically, because there is generally nothing that can be done. Talking to the person or people about it could be a course to follow, but what can you do when the person discriminating against you is your boss? Or your coworker? Someone you have to see every day, or have to be in the same building with, yet you have no proof, no evidence, of any wrongdoing whatsoever but you can feel it in your bones that there is sneaky, discrimination taking place.
I will grant that sometimes these people don’t realize they are being discriminatory. They might be the people who think they are open-minded toward alternative/minority religions yet when they have to interact with people of those religions their bias or prejudice is played out unconsciously. I will grant that much, and sometimes a short talk with those kinds of people might be the way to solve it. But other times, talking will only make it worse, as it becomes almost like a confirmation in their minds that you’re “out to get them” or “bad”.
I don’t have a solution to how to deal with this sort of discrimination. I come up against religious discrimination so little lately that when I do face it, it is a wake-up call, a slap in the face, and I will be the first to admit that I don’t have the best solutions for dealing with such things. But I do know that, in my experience, sneaky, hidden discrimination can hurt more than obvious misunderstanding.