Does it bother you when one ethnic group gets the blame for an entire range of social ills? Do you cringe when all members of a particular religious group are identified as dangerous or evil? Are you struggling with current trends to minimalize, disenfranchise or dehumanize any person who expresses differently than most? (Deep sigh.) Me, too!
And if it happens to someone who is part of a minority group at the hands of the dominant culture, and it happens again and again, without consideration of possible harm to the recipient, I think that just might qualify as a bullying situation.
I am often so shocked and dismayed at the monolithic remarks that are being made that I find myself speechless. And while that is a rare occurrence for me (Miss Gabs-a lot!), it is becoming all too frequent for my comfort. How about you??
But what if we could say something simple in response? Something meaningful, but not mean. Something calculated yet kind. Something non-aggressive while remaining absolutely assertive and hopefully effective. Would you be interested in that?
Some best practices include:
- Don’t pretend you didn’t see or hear something harsh or disrespectful when you did. Doing and saying nothing sends an implied message to the person that it’s OK with you when they demean others.
- Don’t just ignore in hopes that the person will stop the pattern of behavior. Rarely does a disease, injury, or serious safety hazard improve as a result of ignoring the problem.
- Recruit others to stand with you when you speak up. Even if you are the only one speaking, there is safety in numbers and the balance of power shifts when we organize and work together.
Here are some possible choices for response:
- You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I, on the other hand, based on my own experience, disagree completely with your assessment.
- Huh? So you think everyone in that group is exactly the same as all the others? I wonder if they believe that about you, too?
- I noticed that you have been making several remarks about __________. You are entitled to your opinion, however, I feel uncomfortable with comments that generalize or minimalize others. I ask that you please refrain from these remarks in my presence.
- Excuse me, you may think what you are saying is true, and I grant you your right to believe as you do, just don’t expect me to remain silent when I see or hear you doing or saying something that I can tell is bothering my friend.
- It’s a free country and you are allowed to think as you please, however, here at (school, work, etc), we have a policy to speak respectfully of all individuals. Please consider this in the future; otherwise I will need to file a report.
Please let me know if any of these are helpful to you or if they perhaps spark other responses of your own. And if you ever have the opportunity to speak up and you choose to do so, please know that the person who was being harmed appreciates your effort greatly! And I hope someone will do likewise for you, if you are ever on the receiving end of such a circumstance. If I am anywhere nearby, you can count on me to Say Something.