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How can I contribute to positive change in society?

To create a respectful and safe environment for all, we should actively respect human diversity. Often this means that, in addition to being respectful ourselves, when we see hateful behavior, we pay attention, express our disapproval, report the crime, etc. We can each choose the most appropriate and acceptable way to contribute to a less hateful society.


Report hate: report written hateful comments as soon as possible to the administrators of social media networks or news portals. It is important that as few people as possible get to see them.

If hate comments/messages threaten violence, death or other harm to a person’s health, you can report them to the police or prosecutors. All messages must be preserved as evidence, so take screenshots.

Don’t support hate speech in your environment. If you hear hate speech in live conversations you can do several things.

  • React and express your disapproval. Only do this when you feel safe. You do not have to discuss or continue a conversation with a hostile person who communicates in a disrespectful or insulting manner. Especially if they insult you. Try to speak calmly and respectfully. Saying nothing often contributes to the maintenance and continuation of hate speech. However, choose a safe way to express your disapproval. Do not openly confront hatred.
  • Explain how you feel. It will be more impactful if you explain why and how hate speech hurts or offends you. If you can, please share real stories.
  • Express your disapproval with a look or facial expression. Sometimes this is much more effective than expressing disapproval in words. Especially if you are in an environment where it would be unsafe or impossible to do so (e.g. a work meeting). Your silent reaction can send a message to others that hate speech is not welcome.
  • Clearly draw personal boundaries. You can say that you do not want to participate further in the conversation if it contains insults, humiliation or other hateful language about you or others.
  • Step out of the conversation.

For more advice, see My loved one is spreading hatred: what to do?.

Don’t support hate comments online. Don’t share hate comments or images, don’t send them to others and don’t click “like”. If you decide to express your disagreement, do so specifically and clearly, but in an ethical manner that does not offend others.

Don’t laugh at offensive jokes and anecdotes. The easiest way to show that a joke isn’t funny is not to laugh at it. If you have the chance, cut the joke off before the climactic moment.

If the joke is made in a large group of people and you don’t feel comfortable pointing out the inappropriateness of the joke in public – find an opportunity to explain your disapproval in person later.

Set clear boundaries in your environment. You cannot control everyone’s behavior, thoughts and attitudes, but you can set clear boundaries in your environment about what behavior you will not tolerate. Ask them not to speak disrespectfully to you or spread hatred about vulnerable groups. For example, “my work environment is not a place where I will allow you to speak in such a racist, sexist way… I cannot control what you do after work, but please be respectful of other people when you interact with me”. This way, you will create a safe environment not only for your work, but also for your personal life. Clear boundaries are extremely important if you work in an educational establishment. Your example can contribute to the development of respectful behavior in individuals.

Support those who support others and seek allies. Join the people who speak out against hate speech. Be their ally by supporting them with your word, comment, like on social networks. Also look for people who support you, especially if you decide to raise an issue, speak out about it, or express public dissent.

Change the subject of the conversation. If you are attending a gathering or event where one of the participants starts talking in a racist, sexist, homophobic or other hateful way to a larger group of people, try changing the subject. However, this won’t solve the problem, so if you have the chance, explain to the person why their statement was inappropriate in private.

If you feel safe, instead of changing the subject, you can point out that you have a different opinion and experience of the group the speaker is insulting.

Choose language that does not dehumanize. It is important that you talk and communicate about human rights. Try to bring as many real examples of people’s authentic experiences as possible. For example, terms such as “refugees” and “migrants” are sometimes too impersonal and do not reflect people’s experiences. It will be more impactful if you talk about “people who were forced to leave their homes”.

Join the public effort to advocate against hate speech. If you have the time and motivation to contribute directly to work on reducing hate in society, find out about the NGOs in your city and volunteer to help them. You can also volunteer for the emotional helplines. They always need extra hands.

For those with children:

  • Help your children grow up in a respectful and safe environment from an early age, encourage critical thinking and respect for human diversity.
  • Talk openly about different races, religions, cultures, social statuses, disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities. Explain what it is and encourage respect for all people. Teach them to recognize and avoid stereotypes.
  • Provide children with as many toys as possible, regardless of the child’s gender, disability, skin color and other identities.
  • Teach children how to be safe online: do not disclose personal information (home address, phone number, etc.); ask before downloading anything, buying, participating in online activities such as games and lotteries. Teach them to show the content to parents or teachers if it causes anxiousness or makes one feel bad. Teach children: not watch or show others content about violence; not meet people they have met online in person without your knowledge; not disclose passwords; not use hate speech, etc.

Based on:

  • Six Ways to Call Out Racism and Bigotry When You See It. In Amnesty.org.au.
  • Bates L. Everyday Sexism, Simon & Shuster UK Ltd, 2014.
  • Bates L. Girl Up, Simon & Shuster UK Ltd, 2016.
  • Combating Hate Speech. European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance. In Coe.int.
  • Manual for human rights education with young people. Council of Europe, 2020. In Coe.int.
  • Six Steps to Speak Up. In Learningforjustice.org.
  • How to Respond to a Racist Comment. In. Reader‘s Digest.