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Everyday Prejudice

Prejudiced language can be used every day by the people surrounding you. You may not approve of it, and it may make you uncomfortable.

What is a biased incident?

A biased incident is non-criminal behavior that is directed at an individual, that they find harmful or hurtful about their color, religion, disability, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status or age.

If the act is a criminal offense it is considered a hate crime.

Discover the origin of harmful words.


A woman writes, "My mother uses racial and ethnic terminology of the Mexican checkout clerk, the 'black saleslady,' in casual stories in which race and ethnicity are not factors. Of course, if the person is white, she never bothers to mention it."

A man continually refers to the largest nuts in cans of mixed nuts as "nigger toes." His grown children speak up whenever they hear him use the term, but he persists.

A man writes, "My father says he has nothing against homosexuals, but they shouldn't allow them to lead in a church. I didn't know what to say."

From a 20-year-old African American college student in South Carolina: "I've been called an 'Oreo' all my life. 'Oh, you're black on the outside, but you're white on the inside.' Or, 'You're so white.'"

A black high school student in Pennsylvania wears braids to school. Sitting in the cafeteria, some other black students speak loudly about her, "She really thinks she's black now." The student says she often is called "too white" by other blacks.

Some Native Americans share stories of being accused of being "too native" by their peers, as do some Latinos who say other Latinos have accused them of being "too ethnic." Similarly, many gay students speak about being perceived as "too feminine" or "too queer" by other gays.

A woman is in a crowded movie theater. Unable to find enough side-by-side seats for her entire group, she finds herself looking for a seat alone, "I found myself making choices of rejecting a seat based on who might be on either side of me of choices made about skin color, ethnicity, age and gender and so on. At some point, I realized what I was doing and made a conscious decision to choose my seat based on its distance from and orientation to the screen rather than on who I might be sitting next to."


Adapted from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Project on Teaching Tolerance

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