The End of Discrimination Starts With You
Posted by Todd Smith
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Discrimination in our communities and in our places of work takes many forms, but it always involves some form of exclusion or rejection based upon a negative judgment toward a person’s gender, age, religion, race, weight, nationality, handicap, sexual preference, or height.
Today’s lesson addresses discrimination of all types and is intended to help you see that each of us plays an important role in ending discrimination against those with whom we live and work.
Although it seems as if the reasons we should be concerned about ending discrimination are so obvious they need not be stated, I think it’s important that we keep in mind how damaging discrimination really is. The list of why discrimination is wrong is long, but here are the two most powerful reasons:
- Discrimination is dehumanizing. When you treat someone differently solely based on race, gender, age, etc., you deny the value of who they are as an individual.
- Discrimination hurts. Whether discrimination is subtle or overt, people know when they are being discriminated against, and it’s painful.
What Discrimination Looks Like
Awareness of the problem of racial discrimination is probably the highest it’s ever been, and most would probably agree that we’ve made measurable progress on race issues in this country in the past generation. But we still have a long way to go.
To help frame how prevalent all forms of discrimination are today, let’s consider a few common examples:
- A law firm has an unspoken rule that no female will make partner until a quota of male partners has been reached because they believe that clients have more faith in male attorneys than female attorneys.
- A high-end salon turns away otherwise qualified applicants because they don’t have the right look.
- A high-end restaurant uses a proprietary database to decline reservations for individuals who do not meet certain demographic qualifications.
- A local civic organization denies membership to individuals who do not hold the political views that are predominant in the current group.
In each of these cases, the individuals who may be turned away are being discriminated against for a host of different reasons: their gender, their looks, their income, or their political affiliation.
I can think of no valid reason why anyone should be treated differently for factors beyond their control, nor should they be viewed negatively because of their beliefs.
Your Role in Stopping Discrimination
I titled this post, The End of Discrimination Starts With You because you are the only person you can change. If enough of us make a daily, conscious effort not to discriminate, it is possible for real societal change to take place.
In my own personal and professional life, I am more prone to help someone who I believe is discriminated against than someone who is not. When I see that someone is disadvantaged because of something beyond their control, I go out of my way to befriend them and help in any way I can.
Therefore, I am challenging you to start looking at everyone as equal, and going above and beyond to support those who likely feel discriminated against. When you do, you benefit from knowing it’s the right thing to do. In addition, you will be showing greater respect to those around you and will present yourself as someone with a balanced and tolerant worldview.
If you wish to join me in taking an active stance against all forms of discrimination, here are some ways you can begin.
- Never again say anything negative or derogatory about anyone as it relates to things outside their control.
- Be more aware of discrimination. When you witness it, ask yourself if there is anything you can do personally to remedy the situation. Then do it!
- Be intentional about giving favor to those whom you know are being discriminated against.
- Say the words and practice the behavior you want children to imitate. As parents and teachers, we have a huge influence on our children and their views.
- Guard your thoughts and words when with those who make discriminating remarks. Stand up for what’s right.
- Choose your friends carefully. People who discriminate are not friends of mine. Remember that you are the average of your five closest friends.
“It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.” —Carl T. Rowan
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