Woe Is Me! “My Friends Have Bigoted Views. Can I Change Them?”


May 7, 2023


Image Credit: Phagun (1958)

Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.

“My friends and I have opposing views and opinions. They often make homophobic, Islamophobic, or just plain bigoted comments. It bothers me every time, and I try to start a conversation. But I’m always outnumbered. How do I make them realize that these comments are really harmful and reflect their narrow-mindedness?”

— Casual bigotry

AB: I understand how frustrating a situation like this can be — correct them and be labeled as “PC,” “woke,” or some other disparaging term; or, don’t correct them and feel physically revolted every time you hang out with them. Honestly, my first thought was simply that you should stop hanging out with them, but that might be an unrealistic expectation. My suggestion would be to ensure that they know that it’s not “just a joke,” or a matter of you being unnecessarily “sensitive” — having these thoughts and beliefs have very real consequences, and not being in woke circles can’t always justify a lack of awareness. Unfortunately, people have these opinions when they aren’t personally affected.

In my opinion, you can’t change their beliefs, but you can make them listen. If they really are your friends, they should listen to what you have to say, regardless of whether they’re interested in the conversation. You might be outnumbered, but if this is truly important to you, you need to stand your ground. Approach these topics with logic rather than emotions; people, especially straight cis men, tend to respond better to facts. It will take time, but hopefully, you can initiate proper conversation instead of facing outright dismissal. However, if things continue as they have, you might want to consider expanding your friend group to include more aware and culturally sensitive people. In these cases, it’s best to look out for yourself and your mental health because, in the long run, these “friends” of yours will probably end up doing more harm than good.

HK: The personal is political, now more so than ever. With our current socio-political landscape, and the sources available at our disposal, being apolitical or insensitive becomes a conscious choice. The erstwhile mentality of not discussing politics and religious beliefs with friends can no longer sustain itself because these beliefs are a fundamental part of our identity. 

Their opinions and viewpoints might have stemmed from the environment they grow up in, the people they surrounded themselves with, and the education they received. But after a certain age, it became their responsibility to unlearn the bias and embrace empathy. 

I understand it can be very difficult to find comfort in friendships that are divisive in these areas. Are these comments made in humor, or otherwise? If you are outnumbered in a group, I’d suggest talking to them individually, and explaining not only why their beliefs are problematic, but also how they can impact the people around them. Having these conversations is not easy, and there is a strong chance that you may not be taken seriously, but even if one person changes their tactics after that, it could pave the way forward. 

I know that the weight of sociopolitical awareness should not have to fall on your shoulders, but sometimes friendships are lopsided, and it takes effort to preserve them. I hope they listen to your side with a little more care. If not, maybe, a little distance within the friendship could do you some good!

QG: Let’s see — homophobia, Islamophobia, and an unwillingness to listen when you explain why their comments are awful? Hmm. This is the best way to go about this. 

DR: You cannot sensitize the world. You can try, though — being an ally means using your privilege to spread the awareness that someone bereft of those privileges can’t, at least, not without being persecuted. If they do respect your opinions and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas, I think you should continue your endeavor to help them spot the error of their ways — slowly, but steadily. On the other hand, if it starts taking a toll on your mental health, and you realize that their disrespect of minorities now extends to you, too, I think it may be time to call it quits. Self-preservation is important, too, you know? And banging one’s head against a wall helped no one.


Written By The Swaddle Team


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