Reactions to Reactions To My Discrimination Post
I had readers respond to my Are They Discriminating Against You? Probably. blog post in a couple of different ways. First, one reader challenged me about “accepting” discrimination. He believed that I should advocate challenging the ‘discriminatory behaviors’ of others through complaining to the powers that be and/or Human Resources within the organization, or through the legal system. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that those aren’t legitimate avenues. It depends on your goals, though. Do you want to help fix discrimination long term? In your company? For everyone? Then routing yourself around the problem and going to find some place and someone(s) who can judge you for what you are and what you bring and make decisions based on that (as suggested in my last blog) is NOT the solution. Challenging the status quo is the right thing to do. Go for it. Those of us who wimp out on that will really appreciate you. And support you. And do whatever you need us to do.
If you need to get a job this month, then you need to find a place that doesn’t discriminate. You need to find decision makers who are smarter, have better judgement and who are worthy of you. Leave the others in the dirt–where they belong.
The other people admitted that they themselves discriminate and were unhappy with doing so. One person who reacted wrote that she found herself sometimes on the side of being a discriminator. She finds herself feeling the way about young people that older people used to feel about her. Yet another person who responded–same issue–being a discriminator–just can’t break her thinking of older people as ‘time to go-ers.’ The good news is that both of these readers don’t think that it is ‘right’ to think the way they do–they just feel justified.
So What Do You Do?
I guess my first advice is to acknowledge that there is a huge “humans are this way” element to this. We think of people who are different from us as, well, different. Not as good. And then my second advice is to do what I do–struggle with yourself every day to challenge this thinking. Instead of seeing the instances when the young or old person, does something completely wrong, look for when they make sense. Work really hard to see it from their perspective. What do you know that they don’t know that would change their perspective. What EXPERIENCE (not advice or ‘telling’) could you help them have that would help shift their thinking. Don’t give them the experience and then take credit for it. Give them experience and let it go. Give them the experience and try to figure out the next one that will lead them to an understanding of your point of view. Think of it as an experiment. Keep trying things. Try with one person. Try with two people. Compare. What worked and why. What didn’t work and why?
Now experiment with yourself. Listen to your language. Are you “them” and “us” -ing? Are you plopping damning stereotypes on a whole category of people? Work to see each as an individual. Note the ways in which the person is ‘different’ from the stereotype. Another thing we humans do–we make fairer judgements about others who we see as ‘exceptions’ to the stereotype. “Well, s/he is DIFFERENT.” Of course s/he is–we are ALL different. None of us completely fit the damning stereotype. The sooner you can stop applying that stereotype, the sooner you can stop discriminating.
Go for it!