Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About My Own Biases?

'I Thought I Was Cool'

An African American woman is raising her teenage niece. The niece joined the basketball team, came home and said, "Auntie, there are 12 girls on the team, and six are lesbians."

The woman recalls the moment:

"I thought I wasn't homophobic, but, boy, I had to sleep on that one. I was thinking, you know, they're going to recruit her. And here I thought I was cool. It used to be my fear — and I hate to say this, but it's true — it used to be my fear that she would come home with a white man. Now I'm asking myself, 'Would I be more upset if she came home with a white man or a black woman?'"

Seek feedback and advice. Ask family members to help you work through your biases. Families that work through these difficult emotions in healthy ways often are stronger for it.

State your goals — out loud. Say, "You know, I've really got some work to do here, to understand why I feel and think the way I do." Such admissions can be powerful in modeling behavior for others.

Commit to learn more. Education, exposure and awareness are key factors in moving from prejudice to understanding and acceptance. Create such opportunities for yourself.

Follow through. Select a date — a couple of weeks or months away — and mark it on a calendar. When the date arrives, reflect on what you've learned, how your behavior has changed and what's left to do. Reach out again for feedback on your behavior.