An official website of the United States government

Speaking Out Against Bias Promotes Human Rights (Part 1)

Bias and prejudice, whether based on ethnic group, physical abilities, or other characteristics, can show up in many situations. Many biases are hidden, and it’s important for each of us to examine our own thoughts and reactions and strive not to act in a prejudicial manner. Equally important, however, is to speak out against prejudice that we hear in everyday life. Whether this prejudice takes the form of jokes targeted at specific minority groups or unfair assumptions about people based on their physical traits, these moments present an opportunity to speak out and encourage our communities to become more accepting.

The following tips, from Love Has No Labels, provide ideas on how to respond to bias among your family and friends.

With Family

Anticipate and rehearse.

When you know bias is likely to arise, practice possible responses in front of a mirror beforehand. Figure out what works best for you and what feels the most comfortable. Become confident in your responses, and use them.

Discuss actively.

Ask clarifying questions when someone says something that seems biased. “Why do you feel that way?” “Are you saying everyone should feel this way?” Articulate your view: “You know, Dad, I see this differently. Here’s why.” Strive for common ground: “What can we agree on here?”

Describe what is happening.

Define the offense, and describe the pattern of behavior. “Every time I come over, you tell jokes that I find offensive. While some people might laugh along with you, I don’t. I’ve asked you not to tell them, but you keep doing it anyway.”

With Friends

Approach friends as allies.

When a friend makes a hurtful comment or poses an offensive question, it’s easy to shut down, put up walls or disengage. Remember that you’re friends with this person for a reason; something special brought you together. Drawing on that bond, explain how the comment offended you.

Respond with silence.

When a friend poses a question or makes a statement that feels hurtful, let protracted silence do the work for you. Don’t say anything and wait for the speaker to respond with an open-ended question: “What’s up?” Then describe the comment from your point of view.

Talk about differences.

When we have friendships across group lines, it’s natural to focus on what we have in common, rather than our differences. Yet our differences matter. Strive to open up the conversation: “We’ve been friends for years, and I value our friendship very much. One thing we’ve never really talked about is my experiences with racism. I’d like to do that now.”

Many people do not realize when their comments are biased or offensive, which means there are opportunities for educating them. Think about which of these tips might be applicable in your own life, and take action the next time there is an opportunity to speak up against bias in your community!
Stay tuned to the YALI Network to find out how to participate in our upcoming human rights course. Earn your certificate and share your stories of what you are doing to promote inclusiveness and speak out against bias! Learn more and get involved at https://yali.state.gov/4all.

The above tips have been reprinted with permission from Love Has No Labels. Check out their website for more tips!