Challenging attitudes

Prejudice means that people are biased or make a judgement in advance – they form an opinion of something or somebody before they have all the facts.  There can be many reasons for prejudice:

  • Sociological factors - people are influenced by their upbringing, and beliefs that they have built up since childhood.  Some people can also find it difficult to recognise individuality within a group, and assume that all people with the same characteristics are the same.
  • Economic factors – people can be worried about economic competition – for jobs, access to housing, etc – or can be worried about the balance of power in their community.
  • Psychological – people can build preconceptions and misconceptions because of their everyday lives, and how they hear about the world through the media.  Some can also simply be worried or fearful of people who are different from themselves.

So, people, build their views by the way they live their lives and the influences that they come across.  A mix of perceptions, myths, fears and realities build together to form people’s opinions.  Challenging the way people think can be extremely difficult – but is necessary to tackle inequality.

When challenging attitudes, remember that no-one is ever entirely free from prejudice – we all have our own preconceived thoughts and views.  But, it is important to challenge views that you feel are inappropriate.  It takes courage to be ready to do this because you know you will make people feel uncomfortable.  Tell the person simply that what they said was offensive, and why.  If possible, try to keep this as straightforward and simple as possible.  Tell the person how they can find out more, or change the words they use to be more acceptable.