Against antisemitism and other forms of prejudice

Hoping to create a secure space for discussion in which various types of stereotypes, prejudice and discriminatory mechanisms could be safely disarmed, we have organised numerous anti-discrimination workshops, creative meetings as well as lectures and debates.

Our anti-discrimination workshops mostly take the form of two-day weekend meetings designed for groups of adults who are interested in the issues presented. The workshops make it possible to expand one’s knowledge about the concepts of stereotypes, hate pyramids or micro-inequities. They also form an opportunity to practice and discuss the methods which we may use when reacting to instances of discrimination. During our workshops we refer to the general mechanisms underpinning the relations between the majority and the minority; however, in the course of some of our events we have also focused on mechanisms of exclusion which were based on specific grounds. We have – among others – discussed the question of exclusion due to one’s origin from the given town or city or from outside such town or city as well as exclusion due to religious grounds, gender or ethnicity. We have also held anti-discrimination workshops focusing on counteracting hate speech and discussing the language which we should be using in order to avoid exclusion.

In our actions we regularly refer – among others – to March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In 2015, we have held creative writing workshops entitled “Against hatred – posters on the Internet”, organised by a creative group known as Loesje. During these workshops, we have created short slogans and phrases related to diversity, multiculturalism and Jewish heritage. The workshops were conducted by Van Anh Dam, an educator and creator of various social and educational projects who was born in Vietnam but later went on to live in Poland.

During the “When does anti-Semitism start?” lecture by Maciej Kozłowski, PhD, we have explained the sources of anti-Semitism as well as the contemporary manifestations thereof. We have looked upon the challenging concept of anti-Semitism from various perspectives. The concept itself may be quite commonplace but in fact has many different aspects and has been defined and formed in various ways over the years.

The legends of blood and of the alleged kidnapping of children and profanation of sacramental bread by Jews formed the subject of a separate meeting, during which we also discussed the consequences of those superstitious beliefs. During our conversation with Professor Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, we have examined the research results pertaining to the functioning of those legends in our collective consciousness. In addition, the meeting was also accompanied by the screening of Artur Żmijewski’s film Polak w szafie (A Pole in the Closet), created in 2007 following the author’s return from field research in Sandomierz led by Professor Tokarska-Bakir.

Which stereotypes does the POLIN Museum core exhibition seek to face and which does it omit? What are the reasons for these respective choices? What are the stereotypes concerning the Museum’s activities which the Museum itself has to face? Are there any cases where hostility towards Jews transforms into a feeling of prejudice directed against this institution? Is it possible for the Museum to bring about the change of such attitudes through the activities it performs? All these questions have been addressed during the “The Museum and stereotypes” lecture conducted by Kama Dąbrowska, PhD.

How does racism manifest itself in the contemporary popular culture? What are the examples of expressing an anti-racist message in rock music? During the lecture “When does racism start?” by Professor Rafał Pankowski, we have examined the manifestations of racism in our culture. References were made to the examples of various cultural niches from Poland and abroad. Apart from that, complex relations between the phenomena of racism and globalization were also discussed. 

What is hate speech? How can we identify it? What legal mechanisms make it possible to mount an effective response to the use of hate speech and to restrict the activities of those who use it? Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias, PhD, discussed hate speech and the legal consequences thereof during her lecture. Various examples of hate speech in Poland and worldwide as well as the provisions of international law which are interpreted differently by individual governments, resulting in a situation where the available legal remedies will vary from country to country, were also discussed during the lecture.

When speaking of discrimination and exclusion, one should also refer to encouraging and effective examples of pro-equality schemes. During the seminar entitled “The history of anti-discrimination and equality movements” conducted by Ewa Majewska, PhD, we recaptured the history of the movements which gave rise to breakthrough social and political change. In the course of the meeting we were also able to become acquainted with the methods for counteracting prejudice, including Jane Elliot’s “Blue Eyes”, as well as with actions taken against hate crime in both Poland and worldwide. 

We have also invited activists of various non-governmental organizations in order to discuss how pro-equality and anti-discrimination movements develop in Poland, how they operate and how they encourage Polish citizens to act. The discussion on the most interesting projects, actions and ideas was attended by Anna Dąbrowska of the Homo Faber Association, Dariusz Paczkowski of the Klamra Foundation and David Sypniewski – one of the founders of the Culture Practitioners Association. The meeting was conducted by Magdalena Chrzczonowicz, who remains affiliated with the Humanity in Action Poland Foundation.