I am currently having problems with coworkers who make unkind comments about Catholics and Catholic schools and education. How can I handle this without endangering my job or alienating my colleagues? I work in a public school system. Most of the time the comments are made in terms of a joke or casually, as if I weren’t there. If I appeal to their good nature, I’m afraid they will label me as too sensitive.
One possibility is to treat these statements utterly seriously (which is particularly effective if you know your colleagues are “joking”). To the unkind comment, you might say, “Really? I didn’t know that. Could you provide me with all of the information you have on that? I really want to understand this issue better.” If the colleague says, “Oh, I don’t [have time for that/have information on that],” you might say in a disappointed tone, “I’m sorry to hear that. But perhaps then, to be fair, we shouldn’t discuss this issue further without hard facts.” If the colleague says, “Oh, I was [joking/not serious],” you might raise your eyebrows and say in a serious tone, “Given our school and school district’s commitment to diversity and tolerance, perhaps we shouldn’t joke about Catholics and their schools.”