We must find effective ways to nip prejudice in the bud. The worst matter we can do when it happens is our silence, which emboldens and strengthens intolerance to see a new day. How you may ask can we challenge such social ills? The answer is simple: our example and leadership.
Racist rants are usually accompanied by Nazi slogans like this one found in Mikkeli, Finland.
One of the worst mistakes some make when speaking about other groups is to generalize. When we generalize we water the seeds of our prejudice, which eventually bloom and reinforce our intolerance.
A study by Janet Swim and Laurie Hyers in the United States asked the following question to women if they heard a sexist joke: Would you put them in their place, or would you be too nice to confront?
The study showed that 50% of the women participants said they’d ignore the comment, while 16% would actually comment on its inappropriateness. Two percent would grumble and do nothing.
I suspect that when it comes to racist jokes or comments, the number of people that would ignore them would be much higher than 50%.
Our reaction should be like Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s, who said that his country had become after Anders Breivik’s attacks a “more tolerant, [and] more careful not to judge people” according to their ethnic background. His answer was more democracy, openness and tolerance, not less.
If you are at a meeting with colleagues or friends and they make a racist joke, tell them that it’s inappropriate.
Our reaction to intolerance should be first and foremost a reaction.