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Speaking Out Against Bias Promotes Human Rights (Part 2)

Recently, we shared tips for responding to prejudiced comments or jokes you might hear among your family and friends. (Check out Part 1 if you missed it!) It’s also possible that you will witness bias in more public places, like your school, work, or neighborhood. Even among people you may not know as well as your friends and family, it is important to let people know when their words are hurtful or offensive, and to create a welcoming environment for everyone. The following tips, from Love Has No Labels, provide ideas on how to respond in these potentially tricky situations.

At School

Determine the extent of the problem.

As a social science or club activity, survey the people around you about biased language at school: what they hear most often, who they hear it from, how it makes them feel and what they’re willing to do about it.

Start a “Words Hurt” campaign.

Get students, teachers, counselors and administrators to sponsor an assembly, or a weeklong or yearlong education campaign, about the damaging effect of hurtful words.

Support student mediators — and use peer pressure.

Train students in conflict resolution techniques, and ask them to work with peers to marginalize the use of biased language.

At Work

Interrupt early.

Workplace culture largely is determined by what is or isn’t allowed to occur. If people are slow to respond to bigotry, bigotry prevails. Speak up early and often in order to build a more inclusive environment.

Go up the ladder.

If behavior persists, take your complaints up the management ladder. Find allies in upper management, and call on them to help create and maintain an office environment free of bias and bigotry.

Don’t laugh.

Meet a bigoted “joke” with silence, and maybe a raised eyebrow. Use body language to communicate your distaste for bigoted “humor.”

In Your Neighborhood

Model neighborly behavior.

Extend a hearty welcome to new neighbors, and honor old neighbors. Help to create a neighborhood that values connectedness, rather than exclusion and bias.

Apologize immediately.

If you make a joke in poor taste, correct your mistake on the spot: “I’m really sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I could make some excuses, but none would make up for telling such a tasteless joke. I hope you accept my apology.”

It can be uncomfortable to speak up in a professional setting or in response to someone you don’t know very well. However, it is important as it helps create a welcoming, safe environment throughout the community. Practicing possible responses in advance can help you feel more comfortable when the situation arises!

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!