I think it is better to speak out for someone than to stand in silence while they are being insulted, bullied, or attacked. However, I am uncomfortable with the self-congratulatory tone of posts that have been circulating, the ones where someone is being rude in a checkout line, so then the bystander steps in and proceeds to humiliate the initial offender.
Did the person who made the racial slur or derogatory statement, deserve to be called out? Absolutely. But does shaming them really help them have a change of heart, or does it perpetuate the “us against them” story that we are so entrenched in right now?
Over the years, I have heard two activists who I admire, Julia Butterfly Hill and Van Jones, say that it is important to raise people up, rather than point them out. As satisfying as it may initially feel to point out someone’s wrong doing, it does not have a positive lasting effect. Whereas when we raise someone up, we challenge them to be the best version of themselves and we recognize our oneness more than our differences. For example, you may say something along the lines of, “Please stop. What you are saying is hurtful and at the end of the day we are a lot more alike than we are different.” You may also want to compassionately check in with the person being harassed to see if they need assistance.
As inauguration day approaches, and public interactions continue to intensify, many people are wondering how to handle these difficult situations.
Hollaback! is a global network of grassroots activists, who work together to understand harassment, ignite public conversations, and develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. They have resources for how to be an”upstander” rather than a bystander and intervene when someone is being harassed.
These times call for us to be courageous. At its essence, courage does not mean running bravely into battle. Again, I heard Julia Butterfly Hill say, “Courage comes from the Anglo-French word “coer” which means “heart.” Our courage can transform the world…It means staring fear in the face and choosing to act in loving-consciousness anyway.” In our hearts, at our cores, we are built to connect and cooperate.
Let your heart-centered, courageous actions come from a place of love, rather than fear and anger. Stand up for the persecuted and see if you can raise up their persecutor as well and then post that story to social media. #raiseup #courage