How to tackle bigotry (spoiler: it starts with you).

Tackle bigotry

My inner child is feeling pensive and a bit sad. I’ve noted an increasing occurrence recently, of hurtful (sometimes hateful) comments about minorities of all kinds not being taken seriously. It’s not that bigotry has increased – it’s always been there – but rather that people seem to feel more free to express their negative views.

We humans are prejudiced. We’re not perfect. As my friend Todd said recently:

“Nice people sometimes say not nice things behind closed doors.”

This post isn’t about racism per se, it’s about how we show up in society. Here’s my story.

I attended a diverse comprehensive school. I was pretty popular, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. I was even left alone by the notorious school bullies, because I was good at hockey and they wanted me on their team.

At school, I was in the top set, but not so clever that I was called a swot. I had an accent that was Yorkshire enough and middle class enough so as to not be singled out. With my wide vocab, it wasn’t easy for anyone to play the old ‘bud-bud’ card on me.

University and work was relatively smooth sailing too, in the sense that I wasn’t on the receiving end of more harmful behaviour such as bullying or physical violence. The verbal abuse I’ve received over the years have been minimal compared to some of my circle.

Subtle Displays of Bigotry

However, the subtle, everyday racism and sexism that I and women like me experience would take your breath away if I listed it. I don’t want to give it air time. But it still hurts.

It hurts when people invalidate those feelings by saying “I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that” or “But I have friends who are gay/black/Asian” or “I’m offended that you think I’m racist” (their word, not mine).

Please don’t make apologies for it; or tell a person that they’re being over-sensitive or over-reacting, because you’re not in their shoes. Angry posts from people on the receiving end aren’t helpful either…

Because whichever angle you look at it from, blame and fear do not lead to human connection.

A Personal Perspective

It’s not easy to explain, but I’m going to try from my own personal perspective. It hurts because of the collective experience; the bigotry that my parents, my siblings and wider family experienced. We can’t out-logic that kind of hurt, which is carried in our ‘pain bodies.’ (If you’d like a more scientific explanation, look up trans-generational epigenetic inheritance, a fairly new body of research).

It also hurts to see others around me experience it, because I have experienced this unfairness myself and I empathise. Those sideways glances, whispered comments to downright hostility.

The comments veiled as compliments are no better: “I like dusky maidens;” “You’re one of the good ones;” “You’re pretty for a black girl” (the latter said to one of my friends). They all imply ‘otherness.’

There’s a choice. You can choose dignity, empathy and respect over discrimination, judgement and bigotry. You can choose to be the nice person that says nice things, even behind closed doors. It feels good.

The choice is yours, but I hope you’ll make this one: LOVE.

About me: I’m the founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers, a vibrant movement for women leaders who want to create positive social change. An award-winning campaigner who has been featured in the global media, my core values include fairness and equality. They underpin everything that I do.

There are many people who have a deep desire to see harmony in their communities. Together we can achieve that vision. Join in!

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