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Zero Discrimination Day

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Alyssa Walker :
March 1, is Zero Discrimination Day, a day sponsored by UNAIDS. UNAIDS is highlighting the right of everyone to be free of discrimination. This includes discrimination based age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity, language, health, geographical location, economic status, migrant status, or any other reason. Millions of people face discrimination every day for who they are, what they believe, and what they do.
Let's take a closer look at some biases you may not even realize you have:
1. Physical appearance
Ever have a dentist with blue hair? How about a doctor with lots of visible tattoos? A lawyer with lots of piercings?
Appearances dictate a lot of what we think, whether we like it or not, or acknowledge it.
While there are laws that prevent discrimination against people for lots of things, physical appearance isn't one of them.
If your dentist had blue hair, you'd probably make a judgment. You'd probably be less likely to judge the gas station attendant with blue hair. Bottom line? Treat people with respect, regardless of hair color, tattoos, piercings, or unique clothing. Don't make assumptions.
You never know someone else's story, even if you think you can guess.
2. Older people and employment
Older people face employment discrimination constantly.
Age discrimination is illegal under the Age Discrimination Act, but people experience it all the time.
What is it? It's when a job seeker or employee is treated unfairly because of their age-and it's happening earlier and earlier.
What's the problem? In addition to being "too old," even if you're in your early 40s, more experienced job candidates are often overlooked for jobs for which they're qualified because they cost more to employ in terms of salary and benefits.
Guess what? There's no research that shows a relationship between age and job performance.
Remember that.
3. Invisible disabilities
What's an invisible disability?
What it sounds like. It's a disability you can't see. Chronic pain, heart disease, epilepsy, mental impairment, depression, sight loss, hearing loss, Crohn's disease, Lyme disease, lupus, orthopedic issues-the list goes on.
Sufferers may appear "normal," but their disabilities cause them to suffer discrimination, especially at work.
Anything from bathroom accessibility to distances from the parking lot to the office affects individuals with invisible disabilities as much as they affect those with visible disabilities.
The law requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for all employees.
Bottom line again? Don't judge. Don't assume.
4. Name discrimination
Guess what? If you didn't already know it, there's racial bias in names.
Students and job applicants with "black-sounding names" are less likely to experience success at school and at work. They're less likely to have their questions answered on the phone and by email.
A 2015 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior shows that men with black-sounding names are more likely to be imagined as physically large, dangerous and violent than those with stereotypically white names.
In an article of the same year in The Huffington Post, Dr. Colin Holbrook, a researcher at the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture said of the study, "The participant sample, despite being slightly left of center politically, automatically attributed violence to individuals based solely on having names like Darnell or Juan, whereas names such as Connor automatically led to expectations of prestige and status."
His conclusion? "The first step is to become aware of the prejudices we hold," Holbrook said. "We should accept that, in all likelihood, largely unconscious and unfounded negative stereotypes are patterned in our minds. Knowing that prejudicial stereotypes are embedded within us can help us to control whether we allow them to affect the way we treat people who we may view as different."
Sounds like good advice. Celebrate Zero Discrimination Day every day.

 (Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family).

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