Comments Slurs and Jokes - What Can I do To Intervene?
The Anti-Racism Response Training (A.R.T.) program, developed by Dr. I. Ishiyama, is focused on the options available to anyone who witnesses a discriminatory event. While his work is focused on racism, the model can be applied to any type of expression or bias or prejudice.
The model identifies four levels of witnessing:
Dis-Witnessing - When we dis-witness a discriminatory event, we fail to identify it as discrimination and ignore or support the discriminatory actions.
Passive Witnessing - As a passive witness, we identify the actions, as discriminatory but take no external action, as we are unsure of how to intervene, do not feel safe to intervene or do not feel confident to act.
Active Witnessing - An active witness not only identifies the discrimination internally, but also actively addresses the discrimination in a visible way.
Ethical Witnessing - An ethical witness not only intervenes in the moment but also becomes an active ally in seeking equity and respect for the group experiencing discrimination.
If you want to be an active witness, that is to actively intervene when you witness transphobic or homophobic comments, slurs or jokes, your intervention can address:
- The "victim" of the discrimination, racism or hate;
- The "offender" the person whose actions or words were discriminatory, racist or hateful; or Other witnesses or bystanders
Dr. Ishiyama has identified eleven different active witnessing reponse types that can be used,often in combination,to address a situation.
- Interrupt, assertively interject- "Stop it." "Wait a moment."
- Express upset feelings-"I can't believe you are saying this!" "I'm surprised to hear you say such a thing."
- Call it discrimination, or homophobia-"That's homophobic." ,"That is a discriminatory comment.", "What you just said sounds very homophobic."
- Disagree- "I disagree with what you just said." "I don't think that is true."
- Question validity of statement-"Always?" "Everybody?"
- Point out how it offends and hurts people-"That's a hurtful comment.""Ouch! That hurts."
- Put the "offender" on the spot-"What?" "Could you repeat what you just said?"
- Help the "offender" to self reflect-"Did you really mean to make that hurtful comment?" "You sound really annoyed. What's going on?"
- Approaching and supporting the "victim"-"I heard what was just said. Are you OK?"
- Approaching other witnesses-"Did you hear what I just heard?"
- Asking others for involvement and assistance-"You are a teacher I can trust. Can I get your help?" "I need to talk to you (supervisor) about what happened today."
Remember that you do not need to always address the "offender". There may be circumstances where it would feel unsafe to address him or her or useless (if the person is intoxicated, for example).
Supporting the victim and encouraging other witnesses to support the victim is as important and effective as intervening with the "offender" if you want to take a stand against hateful comments.