Is everyone either young or old? Ashton Applewhite calls our attention to the age binary and age discrimination, especially in the workplace. She recalls one woman who feared getting fired if her boss found out how old she was, and the negative implication of the common compliment “you look good for your age.” She finds it helpful to remind herself and others that age is a spectrum. And when people say ageist things, she responds, “why would you say that?”
What characterizes a successful intervention to reduce prejudice? Research tells us it’s all about contact. Language classes and home sponsorships brought refugees and residents of their host country together, and Rwandans who watched a soap opera about reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis developed positive attitudes about the other group. Researchers also emphasize the importance of leadership commitment. When we see our leaders actively working toward inclusion and against prejudice, we are inspired to do the same.
Kate Lynn Blatt is transgender. At her job in a retail store, she was forced to wear a nametag with the male name she was given at birth. She was also denied access to the women’s restroom. Then she was fired, allegedly for threatening acts during an after-hours confrontation—a claim she flat out denies. In 2014, Blatt brought suit under the Americans With Disabilities Act. It’s a groundbreaker on two fronts: First, Blatt brought suit even though the Act excludes ‘transsexualism’ as a disability. Second, Blatt grounded her claim on her experience of gender dysphoria, a type of anxiety that is—arguably—covered under the law. The hope is this case will expand rights for the transgender community, even if it’s only a small first step.
Narrative strategy (hearing, telling, and exploring authentic stories to build inclusion) can take many forms. At Mississippi State, researchers asked community members to bring family recipes to a workshop that culminated in a multi-course meal. Discussion of food production, consumption, and cultural practices followed. Organizers of the project said is was a great way to build empathy and that “sharing a meal is a sensitive, respectful way to understand, learn and start a conversation about our heritage, home and history.”