1. Consider your reasoning.
- You won’t automatically gain points for being “correct.” This isn’t a math test.
- You are allowed to say whatever you want to say. Similarly, other people are allowed to voice disagreement, and free speech won’t protect you from the consequences of your words. Your voice is your choice.
- No one is an angel. You will slip up sometimes, and that’s normal. What’s most important is that you make an effort, apologize if you hurt someone, and listen to others.
2. Focus on kindness, not on being “right.”
- The goal isn’t to censor people, it’s to encourage people to be kind.
- The goal isn’t to be right, but to not be a jerk, especially to people who have faced more than their fair share of hardship and jerks.
- Instead of asking “am I politically correct?” ask “am I being caring and respectful towards others?”
- Recognize that free speech goes both ways. Your professor has the right to go on a racist tirade online… and you have the right to screenshot that tirade, post it on social media, and say “she should be fired.” Just like people have the right to be horrible jerks, you have the right to respond to that.
- It’s not that people are “too sensitive.” It’s more about being nice. After all, there’s a difference between “don’t step on his foot because he’s a sensitive, whiny crybaby” and “watch your step because it hurts him when you step on his foot, and his foot is broken because people keep treading on it, so he could really use a break.”
3. Assess your own prejudices.
- There are a few ways to assess your own prejudices. What do you think when you hear an ethnic last name? What is your first instinct if you learn someone is gay or transgender? If someone talks or moves slowly, what do you think of them? Being honest about your initial reactions can help you identify your prejudices.
- Besides acknowledging your prejudices, one excellent tool to identify any negative feelings you might need to work on is the Implicit Association Test (IAT). You can find this psychological test online to determine your prejudices.
4. Learn about different kinds of prejudice.
- Individuals and groups are discriminated against for many different reasons including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and socio-economic status. If you’re unsure of these groups, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has information on groups who experience discrimination.
- Taking a course at a university or doing some research online can help you learn more about prejudice.
5. Interact with those different than you.
- Find coworkers or classmates who are different from you. Ask those people from a different ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or country to go to lunch. If you’re not that close, just start a conversation with them. You can talk about your differences, but you may be surprised how much you have in common.
- Find culturally diverse events and experiences. Developing your thoughts and understanding that all people are equal through interactive learning will foster a respectful attitude.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Check a search engine to see if any writers have answered your question online.
- Keep your questions respectful and not too personal. “What pronouns should I use when referring to you?” and “Do you know of any good online resources where I can learn more about transgender issues?” are both reasonable questions. “What do your genitals look like?” is a very private question that should only be asked if you want to have sex with them, or you are a doctor and you need to know for medical reasons.