What you can do
- Actively listen
- Avoid assumptions
- Listen with empathy
- Don’t talk over the individual
- Listen more talk less
- Give your full attention
- Check the lens that you are listening through
- Listen, hear, understand, and then act
- Don’t explain away someone’s bad behaviour
- If you feel you’re making excuses, you probably are
- Try to listen, understand, and support
- It’s not the victim’s responsibility to educate you
- This does not just fall to a small group of us, this is everyone’s responsibility
- Take your time and energy to educate yourself
- Seek out a diverse community to understand different points of view
- Recognise your social conditioning
- Take yourself out of your echo chamber
- Remember just because you don’t experience it does not mean it does not happen
- What someone is going through is very real to them
- We all experience and see life through a different lens – open your eyes to different lenses
- The emphasis has to be on your impact not your intent
- Don’t talk over those you are trying to support
- Amplify rather than overshadow
- It is not enough to be offended and simply refrain from a behaviour, be actively anti-racist
- If you see it, hear about it, or know about it – speak up!
- Tell the bullies their jokes, comments, approach is not welcome
- Use inclusive language
- Self-reflect more, check your unconscious bias and behaviours
- Saying you are an ally does not make you one, actions do
- Limited interaction isn’t enough
- Be a prosocial bystander, not passive
- Don’t expect kudos or thanks
- Understand this is the right thing to do, and how it fits with your values
- Know that there are some things you will never experience
- Recognise there are situations you will never have to think about
- Understand that you don’t have to walk in others shoes daily experiencing what they can not change, in order to see it and take action
- Acknowledge that privilege is not something you choose but does come with unearned benefits
- We’re human, mistakes happen
- Recognise it, own it
- Apologise, but don’t make it about you
- Apologise without caveats
- Move on and learn from it.
Inappropriate behaviours, comments, microaggressions, and structural discriminators are often invisible to the majority and entrenched in our culture and society. They sneak up on us, both as victims and in our own minds and mouths without us being aware. When faced with challenging conversations about movements such as #BlackLivesMatter or any form of discrimination, it can be difficult to know what to say, how to support and what to do.
Examples could include: Verbal abuse, insults, inappropriate jokes, ridicule, unwanted physical contact, leering, coercive, menacing behaviour, isolation, micro-aggressions, inappropriate advances, power play, inappropriate / outdated language, overt and covert discrimination.
What are Microaggressions: Microaggressions, are defined as, verbal, behavioural, and environmental indignities that are often unintentional, but communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial insults
Here are a few suggestions of how you can help:
Direct Action - directly intervene, for example, by asking the person to stop immediately or call out negative behaviour, explaining why it is not OK.
Distraction - indirectly intervene, for example, de-escalating by interrupting or changing the subject or focus. Useful where the direct approach may be harmful to the target or bystander.
Delay - wait for the situation to pass and check in with the individual. Take action at a later stage when you have had time to consider.
Delegation - inform a more senior member of staff, someone with social power or authority.
Or you can approach the situation in one of the following ways:
Confrontation does not always mean saying “You’re wrong.” A more subtle form of confrontation can be saying “That’s not always right.”
When a microaggression sneaks into your everyday conversation, a gentle redirection regarding why a given statement is not altogether true or factual can be helpful.
Shift and open the conversation ever so slightly, some examples of how you can start that conversation include:
- I experience that like...
- I’ve heard it explained like...
- That could also mean...
- That could also be experienced through...
A challenge can simply be saying “That’s not my experience, and it’s not the experience of many other people.”
The language you can use to challenge microaggressions include:
- I’ve heard/experienced the opposite...
- Some people would tell you...
- I’m not sure that reflects my experiences...
- I have felt differently when...
Another good way of challenging microaggressions is to ask questions:
- Where have you heard that?
- Who have you talked to about that?
- Do you think there are other opinions about that?
- How might someone disagree with that?
Simply say, “That’s not right.” No further explanation is necessary.
We are often faced with an endless number of microaggressions — not just sexist ones, but ones that challenge a multitude of your own identities and the identities of people you know and care about.
You are not a full-time educator. You can express your disagreement and simply say, “I am not interested in having this conversation right now, but it’s important for you to know that I am not okay with what you just said.”
You have taken the time and effort to do your homework. So can they.
You are not going to reverse years of social conditioning in one conversation, however, it is an opportunity to plant a seed of dissent; over the years, that seed can grow as more information is provided to counteract the inappropriate messages we receive daily.
It is important to remember: Good people can (and do) engage in microaggressions. People you love can (and do) engage in microaggressions.
That doesn’t make it hurt any less. It also doesn’t make these conversations any easier. But challenging them can help create more honest communication with those around you.
At the very least, it can help them understand where you’re coming from and establish boundaries around certain topics.
You may not always feel comfortable directly challenging microaggressions. You may not be in a space where you feel like it would be helpful, either for the person you are confronting or for yourself.
If you hear a microaggression, you always have the option to indirectly confront it by simply changing the topic. This doesn’t have the same level of satisfaction or impact as intervening, but it can stop a comment from turning into an inappropriate conversation.
- Let’s talk about...
- Did you hear that story about...
- What did you think when...
- I’ve always wondered...
It might feel awkward at first, but redirection can be effective when you feel like other conversations might simply escalate.
Just like you are not a full-time educator, you are not required to intervene at every microaggression you witness. There will be times when you will choose to do nothing. That might depend on the environment you are in, the power differentials in the conversation, your own level of comfort, and your own level of burnout. That’s okay.
Our ability to challenge every day microaggressions is what helps create a shift in our culture. That shift will happen gradually. However, the weight of it does not fall solely on your shoulders.
Do your part, but also know that we are creating this shift together. Sometimes we will succeed, sometimes we will falter, and always we will continue forward.
Click here to watch this short video - Brené Brown on Empathy
Aicha Daoudi and Massilia Ait Ali Slimane discussing their lives as Muslim women, with a view to debunking myths. Gorm media is an impact focused digital media company that curates common ground through conversations. It was founded by PhD student Mamobo Ogoro. Click here to view.