Case Study: Roy Smith, Biology
In my own area of human physiology there is a great deal of scope for better non-discriminatory practice. A couple of examples:
Lactose intolerance. This is regarded as an 'illness' in Western medicine, but actually most human populations are naturally lactose intolerant as they lose the lactase enzyme in their gut after weaning. Those ancestral groups that adopted animal-herding and who used milk products tended to retain the enzyme into adulthood, through a process of natural selection as this gave them an advantage in terms of energy supply and other reasons. So the 'abnormal' group is those who are lactose tolerant, actually! How you present this to a mixed class is important as a good many from outside Europe and Northern Asia may be naturally lactose intolerant, but perfectly healthy. Calling it an 'illness' is discriminatory, and I take pains not to do so.
Sickle-cell disease is another example where sensitivity is needed.
The whole concept of 'race' in biology. Genetically speaking most so-called 'races' are not at all clear cut, with as much variation within groups as between them. So using 'race' or 'ethnicity' as a classifier is often not appropriate. However, there are some culturally or geographically isolated groups (eg some religious sects which tend to 'marry in'; some island populations) which do differ in the proportion or incidence of specific biological traits. This needs to be handled extremely carefully in class.
Normal values. We did an exercise at UCE years ago when we decided to root out discriminatory teaching. We looked a the 'normal values' and 'standard ranges' often used in health biology. It turned out many of these were based on white American males (usually soldiers). So you need to be very careful about the sources of so-called 'normal values'.
Away from teaching, in terms of student administration we have to be very careful to avoid stereotyping and labelling and thus de-motivating students. This is not about the Daily Mail 'genteel bigotry' level. It is about a conflicting situation however careful and sensitive you are. Most equalities training around ethnicity seems to assume a certain amount of cultural homogeneity - it's probably the only way to tackle some things - and often seems quite valid on an operational level. But individuals often believe our assumed cultural identities and surprise us. It is difficult to judge when to accept others' cultural norms and when to assert a respectful difference.