When you are in a situation where you have a job, are in a degree program, a church etc that you like, it can be very tempting to just try and ignore behavior you may not otherwise tolerate elsewhere. Life is full of compromises and some mean taking a whole lot of bitter with the sweet. We often accept the trade off, because we feel what we get out of the situation far outweighs any negative aspects or at least balances them out. Many times we are just doing what we feel is best and being an adult in adult situations isn't always for the faint of heart. But, there are times we are just doing a disservice to ourselves and others around us by allowing such behavior to persist.
Sometimes standing up to harassment and discriminatory behavior is not only the best thing to do, but the most responsible and adult thing to also. Often times there are reasons beyond mere discrimination, prejudice, racism, xenophobia, etc that cause the kind of harassment that crosses very obvious lines. Interwork rivalries, jealousy, promotions, CYOA and more, all could be the cause of such behavior.
For example, a person may have been reported for something that led to a negative write-up or poor performance evaluation. As a result the person written up may choose to retaliate against the person they know or believe reported them. This can easily turn into the person scorned using gender, race, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, etc of the person they believe wronged them as the hook to hang their frustrations on, etc.
They may begin using these things because they feel it is a way to best hurt the other person through harassment, or that they can most easily recruit others into the behavior using such spin whether they are correct or not in that assessment.
In other cases race, gender, any of the other above mentioned reasons and more may be the causes simple and plain. Nothing fancy, just base prejudice.
Whatever the case, a time comes when the person that is the target of the harassment has to make a decision to put a stop to the behavior. When this happens the person that chooses to stand up to the harassment may find that their harassers may actually feel their reasons are sound and practical and may even try reasoning with the target of their harassment as if to say, “be practical, because of your race (or whatever it is) you don't fit and should just leave” (or whatever it is they want).
As time goes on, you may even find frustrated harassers coming into work, etc in the mornings, and at the sight of you turning red faced and shaking their heads in disbelief as if to say, “you still here? What's wrong with you?” as if you are the one being impractical and in need of seeing how wrong you are.
I understand as I too have been through it and literally watched people that were trying to get rid of me, stare in disbelief at my arrival the morning after a particularly spirited attempt to get me to “see the light” the day before. My casually sauntering into the place where the harassment occurred in my case (the landscape architecture program's design studios at the University of Connecticut) caused stares of disbelief on more than one occasion. In my case they just wanted me to go because of their prejudices towards me and they saw this as perfectly just and sane – even though they knew it was illegal.
In fact, they kept making me out to be the bad guy and the crook for not leaving. Here I was paying to be at this school in this degree program with loans, scholarships etc and the law of the state, federal government and institution were all on my side, yet these people actually thought their mob rule was correct and all these other rules and me were wrong.
I ignored it for a long time, but in the end turned around and stood up to it, and quite honestly felt better for doing so. In fact I graduated with a degree in landscape architecture and so forced them to fall on their faces hard and fail. They even had to watch me stand in line and get my diploma. I have the pictures and all (nothing like those facial expressions).
But to get there, I had to make that decision when they said, “we want you to go” to respond with “you know what? I'm actually not interested in taking you up on that. Good luck with your efforts though.”
Moreover, to make it work I had to stick it out and commit. One of the main problem people, though I didn't know it until well into my time at UConn, was a person named Ed. He had apparently done this before. But no matter his previous success rate, my ambition, my goal was to get him and the others like him to fail. Though he had had success in the past, it was time for Ed to learn to fail. I committed to that and to doing it without breaking the laws or the rules of the school to do so.
In the end my saying no won out. I did it and it can be done again and repeated by anyone. I'm of average intelligence at best and have no specialized training or skills and I beat them. It just took commitment to seeing them fail.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation don't be afraid to simply say, ”no thanks” to door A and opt for door B instead. As daunting and uphill a battle as it may seem and may in fact be, it can be done. I watched such people fail once and thus know from personal experience they can fail.
After all, in the end you have the law and the rules on your side. Often times it's just having the strength and courage to put that next foot down when everything in you, everyone around you and what you know many others would probably do are pulling you in the opposite direction. The easy more popular road is most often the one without the payoff you want at the end. If you have to don't be afraid to say no to all that and just take the one that you believe to be best for you. You can watch them fail. I have and would do it again in a heartbeat. It's quite an adventure.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.