Prejudice and stereotypes

What can you do against prejudice?

Everyone is prejudiced. Including you! Prejudices are useful, because they help you keep things simple. But they can also influence the way we behave towards certain people, and that can be dangerous. Fortunately, there is something you can do. Below, we describe the three steps you can take.

The first and most important step in the fight against everyday prejudices is to recognise them, and to acknowledge that we are all affected by them. Everyone has definite ideas about certain groups of people that never apply to all members of that group. If you are, and remain, aware of this fact, you have already taken the biggest step. 

The second step is to try to make sure that your own prejudices do not determine your behaviour. Prejudice should never lead to exclusion or discrimination against others. Also, make sure that you do not spread your own prejudices.

Step three: react! If someone around you hurts other people, insults entire groups, or uses prejudice to define them, react. Oppose them! React in your own circle of friends and acquaintances, respond on social media. 

How do you do that? You can ask people to tone it down. You can discuss the issue or make yourself heard in another way. You can let people know that you are not okay with offensive or insulting prejudices - whether they affect others or yourself. 

To respond well to prejudices, you do not need to be an expert on a subject. You do not have to know all the facts. Common sense and empathy will be your most important assets. And humour, of course.

If you do end up in a debate, questions may sometimes be more effective than facts, figures, and arguments. A good way to avoid endless 'tis-'tisn't arguments is to continue asking questions. They will help you to show that some statements are actually incorrect or illogical.

Asking questions can result in the other person wondering whether they were really right after all. Perhaps not straight away. Sometimes it only works in the longer term. These three simple steps can help yourself and others become less prejudiced.