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Carla's Insights

Countering Discrimination in Word and Deed

At REDF, we believe in mutual respect and we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to contribute their skills and talents to our country and our economy.

Divisive language impacts individuals in all spheres of life. Words matter. Words can cause harm. This is not meant as political commentary. This is about our humanity and our values.

In particular, our country has set specific standards that are meant to foster a level playing field in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically cites the phrase “Go back to where you came from” as the type of language that could violate anti-discrimination employment laws in certain circumstances:

Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.

REDF’s mission is to invest in and partner with employment social enterprise businesses that provide jobs and support to people who are striving to most past tough circumstances, including histories of homelessness and incarceration, so they can get into the workforce and succeed. Once they leave the supportive social enterprise environment, a critical factor in their success is fair treatment by their employer. We have unfortunately seen the negative impact that discrimination can have on job retention – from verbal abuse to inequitable management practices to unconscious bias.

From our perspective, it is a business and civic imperative to counter discrimination in word and deed whenever we can, such as employers’ prioritizing policies and practices that foster respect and the full inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds, including those who have been incarcerated or homeless.

Like many people around the world, I often find inspiration and solace in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose context was the daily reality of inequities and even violence stirred by discrimination. He noted that, “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” And in an optimistic spirit: “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Together, we work toward a society that offers opportunity and hope to all, and is intolerant of bias that stands in opposition to it.

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