Be an Upstander
We are all dealing with a very difficult time in our lives. Those of us with jobs and health are doing far better than those without, and it’s still hard. The news is constantly showing the same scary images and giving numbers about the COVID crisis on top of the Black Lives Matter protest movements around the world.
As a history teacher, seeing people in the street around the nation--and the world--certainly reminds me of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The methods of protest are similar, the reactions to those protests are similar, and even the causes for the protests are similar. There isn’t much one person can do to make the justified anger go away except show solidarity with those who have been wronged.
Or is there?
You may regularly come in contact with people who are different from you in ethnicity or view point. How do you interact with them? No one wants to be accused of being racist, but as my minister said, “what are we doing to be actively anti-racist?” This applies to us in schools where we have little eyes constantly absorbing our behaviors and recognizing that if the leaders behave a certain way, then it must be OK.
We teach our children to stand up against bullies. When you see a friend being picked on, have the courage to intervene. Dealing with racist behavior or comments is really no different. The Metropolitan Community College in Missouri offers a webpage of training on how to intervene. Here are a few of their suggestions:
- Be aware of events around you
- Take responsibility for the well-being of everyone in the community (I love this one because it jibes with my own values of citizenry)
- Step in and help others
a. Step in directly and separate the persons involved. Let them know why, and tell them you are doing this because you care
b. Use a distraction to redirect focus of one person, like “Hey let’s go somewhere else and talk.” Even intentionally spilling your drink will cause enough distraction to deflate a situation.
c. Recruit others to help you so you can step in as a group to separate people
d. Call the police if things escalate
Some of this might be very difficult for you to do when the person making the inappropriate comment is a superior, or when others in leadership don’t call out the behavior. It might even take a moment to process what the person has said before you can react, but I believe silence is complicity.
Be an upstander, and make one positive move for anti-racism wherever and whenever you can so our children will know where we stand.
posted by Jennifer Seal
June 11, 2020