There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” –Elie Wiesel
Continuing the Muse Pallet’s efforts to help each of us grow in mindfulness of everyday bigotry, I have withdrawn more suggestions from the booklet “Responding to Everyday Bigotry.”
One would think that sending and forwarding truly tasteless jokes via email would have grown passé by now. But it continues, judging by the occasional “joke” that lands in my email box. These non-jokes that harbor everyday bigotry can include jokes about members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, the disabled, Republicans, Democrats, all races, blondes, redheads and overweight and underweight persons.
Here are three suggestions from the above mentioned booklet:
- Forward no more. Stop online bigotry at your computer don’t forward it. A simple deletion isn’t the same as speaking up, of course -– it does nothing to bring attention to the offense -– but it’s a solid first step in breaking the chain.
- Reply to sender. Explain that the communication offended you and ask to be removed from any similar post or email in the future. Explain why -– that you find bigoted language offensive, and that so-called jokes are not funny and that stereotypes are unfair, bigoted, and harmful.
- Reply to all. Do the same thing, but hit “Reply all,” By sharing your thoughts with everyone on the list, others may follow your example. Imagine the powerful statement that would be made if all recipients responded in this way. If you choose this option, however, be aware that you may get negative replies. You don’t have to respond to the replies, but if you do, use a thoughtful, constructive tone, seeking understanding not combative argument.
How I recall those lunch room moments of everyday bigotry. Casual conversation that may be unintentional, but is insulting to others, nonetheless. A few samples, that I’m sure you have heard are noted in this booklet:
“In the teachers lounge, a fellow teacher made a joke to the other staff about the band students, referring to them as ‘band fags.’ “
“An Italian American woman’s coworker make daily comments about her heritage. ‘Are you in the mafia?’ ‘Are you related to the Godfather?’ “
You get the idea. So speak up.
- Interrupt early. Workplace culture largely is determined by what is or isn’t allowed to occur. If people are lax in responding to bigotry, then bigotry prevails. Speak up early and often in order to build a more inclusive environment
- Use or establish policies. Call upon existing -– too often forgotten or ignored -–- policies to address bigoted language or behavior. Work with your personnel director or human resources department to create new policies and procedures, as needed. Also ask your company to provide anti-bias training.
- Go up the ladder. If behavior persist, take your complaints of the management letter. Find allies and upper management, and calling them to help create and maintain an office environment free of bias and bigotry.
- Join Together. Like-minded colleagues also may form an alliance and then asked a colleague or supervisor to change his or her tone or behavior.
In Public & Retail
A few years back, a man of Filipino heritage, a licensed pharmacist, purchased a local drug store. An elderly woman, clearly of Caucasian heritage, approached this pharmacist with a rant about how she was sick and tired of “all you Chinamen taking our jobs.” It was a wow moment. Fortunately, when one of our community leaders heard about this shameful behavior, she opened her home to the new pharmacist and his family, and invited all of her friends and colleagues to come meet and greet.
And this is one example of standing against everyday bigotry.
Another sample from this booklet reads:
Colorado woman uses a wheelchair. She is boarding the plane with her husband when the flight attendant says, to the husband, “Will she need help being seated? The husband told the flight attendant to ask his wife.
- Speak up for yourself. If you’re the target of rude customer service let the person know. I remember one gay man who frequented our retail store who wrote on every single one of his $1 to $20 bills, “This is money from a gay man.” My guess is that he fully understood retail prejudice.
- Step up. Don’t allow someone to be mistreated when you have the power to help. Don’t stick solely to “your” issues. Speak up against bigotry where ever it happens, whoever is involved.
- Find the source. An offending clerk may simply be following store policy when he or she makes it a point to follow people of color or teens through the store. So ask the clerk or security officer who may be following you or someone else why the stalking.
- Stage of personal public protest. Cancel your store purchase on the spot and say why you’re doing so.
- Tell others. Let friends and family know what you observed or experienced.
- Consider your safety. Confronting strangers in public or retail venues can be dangerous. Always consider your safety and the safety of others before responding. But if you do say something, state your beliefs clearly.
- Speak to the proprietor. If the incident happens in a business, leave, but before you walk out, let the managers know why you’re leaving.
A facet of our populace will call these suggestions “Political correctness off the rails.” It take commitment to bring awareness of these issues that hurt others, or you. It is not an issue of PC language, but a fact in the right way to treat others as we would want them to treat us.