Target: ForceChange Community
Goal: Commit to empathy and honesty as tools for breaking down prejudice, and reject the divisiveness that keeps our country ideologically at war.
The American people are now at the end of one of the most hate-filled, vitriolic, up-in-arms election cycles our nation has ever been witness to. For some, indeed, the end of the battle seems farther than ever now that the election itself is over – others feel that they have finally scored a victory. But it is important for us to remember, no matter how far to one side we may lean, the other side is not the enemy. Belittling people who disagree with us can accomplish nothing more than spreading hatred and resentment. Those of us who understand the harm of prejudice – racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other manifold forms – must also understand that there are ways to bring these issues to light and effect positive change. Calling people out is not one of them.
A study done in partnership between Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley examined how earnest, face-to-face conversations can help combat prejudice against transgender people. Representatives canvassed the homes of more than 500 voters in South Florida, and found that through short, non-confrontational interactions, not only did anti-trans attitudes decline, but they remained lower in a follow-up three months later. Moreover, the folks whose homes were canvassed became more likely to support legislation that would protect trans people from discrimination.
Changing people’s minds is one of the hardest things to do, and with the wrong approach it becomes impossible. Alana Conner, executive director of Stanford’s Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions Center, commented: “Telling people they’re racist, sexist, and xenophobic is going to get you exactly nowhere… One of the things we know from social psychology is when people feel threatened, they can’t change, they can’t listen.” Difficult though it may seem to relate to people you believe are prejudiced, finding that empathy may be the key to breaking prejudice down and achieving a mutual recognition.
Not all of us have the time or the capacity to campaign door to door, but what we can do is incorporate a little more compassion into our daily interactions. Listen more than we speak. Do not dismiss people who express different opinions to ours as misguided or wrong – rather, do our best to understand where they are coming from. And if we feel safe doing so, offer our own opinions and experiences as a viewpoint they may not have considered. Sign your name here and commit your voice to a future of empathy, respect, and healing.
Dear ForceChange Community,
By signing this petition, I pledge to keep an open mind and a compassionate heart as I work to combat prejudice. Whatever my identity or political ideology, I recognize that demonizing those who disagree with me, even those I believe to be unequivocally wrong, will do nothing to change people’s minds or bridge the deep divides in our country.
Pointing out people’s biases or reminding them of their privilege will only make them feel silenced – and people who feel they are not being listened to are not likely to listen in turn. Reducing prejudices is going to take time, and I pledge my patience and dedication to this cause. I reject the combative nature of ideological disagreements in this country. In the future, I will do my best to engage with others in a meaningful way, so that we might both work to erase our prejudices and move together on a path of healing.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: geralt