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What You Can Do If You Witness Discrimination

Whether you witness an incident involving a family member or a stranger, here's what you can do to create a more accepting world
What you can do if you witness discrimination

Whether you witness an incident involving a family member, friend, or even a stranger, it is our responsibility as human beings to support one another and speak out against intolerance.

So what can you say or do to encourage someone who is being targeted in this way and what can you say to the person who is dishing it out to let them know it is not ok?

First off, if the situation is violent or if a group is targeting someone, contact the authorities immediately. If possible and without placing yourself in harm's way, separate the parties involved.

If the situation is non-violent, try the following.

1) Remain calm and step in. If the situation is safe, get involved. Encourage everyone to take a breath and step back.

2) Do not name-call. No matter how ridiculous a statement may seem to you, name-calling can only escalate a situation.

3) Identify the bad behavior and ask the person to stop. Tell the person making the statement that it is insulting and why. If the targeted person can calmly articulate their feelings, let them explain why it was hurtful and upsetting.

4) Encourage understanding. Ask the antagonist why they are saying what they are. Perhaps they don't realize that their statement or action was offensive. Remember, people are complicated, and situations and statements are not always what they seem. Urge the person to try to understand how their words or actions might be upsetting to someone else.

5) Establish rules. If the person does not agree that their statement/action was inappropriate, realize that you won't change their opinion right then. Ask them not to repeat the language when they're around you or the person they targeted.

If you know the offender, don't let the incident go without further discussion. Ask them to talk to you at a later time when it is just the two of you. Some people discriminate in situations where they feel threatened or unfamiliar. Do what you can to help educate them.

6) Be present. Stay with the person who was targeted and let them know that you support them. If they need to talk, talk to them. If they need your physical presence to feel safe, stay with them until they are in a safe setting.

As a society, there is improved awareness of discrimination. Even so, it continues. There is no situation in which it should be acceptable. Diversity and inclusion are a healthy, normal part of humanity. Do your part to make it that way.

Ready for more support? Join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, or start affordable online therapy today.

Posted: 28 February 2019
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Kathy Wenzel

Kathy is the editor of a leading regional publication in Michigan with personal experience with and a passion for mental health issues.

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