Beating the Bystander Effect: Part II

For older kids and adult students, The Atlantic‘s City Lab has a six-step guide for standing up to a bigoted attack. This article dates from 11/15/16; it’s written with an eye to recent events and increases in harassment and hate attacks.

Notable here is step 4, detailing why it won’t always be the right strategy to contact authorities.

Doug Meyer, a gender studies scholar at the University of Virginia and the author of Violence Against Queer People: Race, Class, Gender, and the Persistence of Anti-LGBT Discrimination, says that if you witness a verbal or physical assault on a person of color and/or a LGBTQ individual—identities which are obviously not mutually exclusive—it’s crucial to tread carefully before getting an authority figure on the scene. “They might have had negative experiences in the past and don’t want it reported to the police,” he says. In any circumstance, make sure that the victim is safe before doing anything else—and then check to see what they’re most comfortable with.

United for Intercultural Action, a “European network against nationalism, racism, fascism, and in support of migrants and refugees,” has a guide/lesson plan for practicing some of these interventions. Scenarios include addressing racist attacks on the bus and in the pub , and the guide does a good job of breaking down the preparation, scene, and analysis steps to successfully conducting the exercises.

Often civil courage is associated with bravery, valor and heroism. But acting courageously often begins in everyday situations. Civil courage is not about playing the hero. It means listening to your inner voice telling you that something has happened which is not right and that you should do something against it.

This leaflet is about the need to “do something”. It shows why civil courage is needed and how it can be trained.

The resource also has a ten-step summary of what people can do in these situations. They also nod to Theater of the Oppressed and the way that theater games can provide a safe space for rehearsing these kinds of situations before they occur.

Next up, how Theater of the Oppressed can be especially useful today.


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