Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About Unwanted Email?

'Reply All' To Bigotry

Many of us receive unwanted "joke" e-mails forwarded by friends or colleagues.

Lesbians and gays, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, people with disabilities, Republicans, Democrats, people of all races and ethnicities, blondes and people who are overweight: The targets of such "joke" e-mails are innumerable.

"It's horrible," writes one man, who says he has changed his e-mail address at least once and not given the new address to those friends who frequently forward such e-mails.

Forward no more. Stop e-mailed bigotry at your computer. Don't forward it; instead, delete it. A simple deletion isn't the same as speaking up, of course — it does nothing to bring attention to the offense — but it's a solid first step in breaking the chain.

Reply to sender. Explain that the e-mail offended you and ask to be removed from any future e-mailings. Be sure to explain why — that you find bigoted language offensive, that so-called "jokes" are unfunny and that stereotypes are unfair, bigoted and harmful.

Reply to all. Do the same thing, but hit "reply all," sharing your thoughts with everyone on the e-mail list. Others then may follow your example. Imagine the powerful statement that would be made if all recipients responded in this way.