So on a daily basis, I find myself interacting with people (mostly on Facebook) who don’t understand racism, sexism, homophobia and other similar concepts. They aren’t really that difficult to understand, I don’t think, but I’ve made it a career choice and a personal interest to understand people who are different from me and the history that has led to the present state of discrimination, prejudice and negativity that affects those groups. I know not everyone has the time to minor in women’s studies or learn the material sufficient to teach black history classes like I did, so I’m going to give you a handy guide to how to avoid being racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and other things that you might want to avoid being if you want to have a productive life in a modern society.
So here you go, if you do any of these things below in connection with your interactions with or discussion of a particular group of people based on their demographic characteristics (race, gender, age, religion, sexual identity, ethnicity, national origin, etc.), then you are entering into territory where you are being offensive and morally wrong. This doesn’t make you a racist, sexist, etc., automatically, but it does push you in that direction and you should examine your actions, words, etc.
1. Directing physical or emotional harm or wishing harm upon the group
2. Saying or acting as if you hate, dislike or fear the group
3. Denying rights to members of the group
4. Refusing to hire, associate with or otherwise interact with members of the group, including segregating the group in society
5. Opposing government programs that disproportionately help a group that faces a history or present marked by discrimination or mistreatment
6. Treating members of the group differently than you treat members of your group
7. Treating everyone in the group the same–even if the treatment is positive
8. Saying you know better than the group does what is happening to them or what is best for them
9. Denying real-life experiences or statistically-proven challenges that the group disproportionately faces
10. Use of language that is derogatory towards the group, even if you don’t agree that it is derogatory or that you didn’t know was derogatory
11. Ignorance of the history, challenges, language and culture that causes the group problems
12. Being blind to the differences between the group and other groups
13. Stating that your group faces the same problems as a group that statistically faces more of the problem or more intense versions of the problem
14. Telling members of the group that they shouldn’t be “sensitive” about problems that they face
15. Using the term “politically correct” (or some variation) to dismiss complaints from the group about discrimination or prejudice directed at them
16. Use of words that specifically or through implication imply that the group is inferior or disfavored
17. Failure to include members of the group in your media portrayals (unless warranted), focus groups, advertising targets, voter outreach, etc.
This list is probably not complete and I’m more than open to suggestions of things to add to it. Contact me on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org for additions or leave them in comments.