Standing Up Against Bias Speech
- Bold and reserved – what is your style for conflict resolution
What are the goals of aggressors?
2. Levels of Aggression
Part 1 involves people you know. They may be people in your workplace, your neighborhood, your family, or your friends.
Goal: Your goal is not to change someone else’s mind. Your goal is to stand in your own truth. The more of us that do that, the more the society will move in the direction of those truths. Everyone within hearing can be changed by your statements.
- I messages. “It bothers me when you call other women by that term” “I don’t like when you use that term.” “That term hurts ”
- Name the behavior, out loud. “You are yelling.” “You are hurting my arm.” “You are touching me.”
- Make a request: Practice authority voice. “Please don’t use that term in front of me.”
- Deflecting insult aimed at you. “That might be so…AND…”
- Phrases to be agreeable while not agreeing. Structure: repeat the offensive comment in a neutral way, then state your objection succinctly and neutrally. “Yes, restate a summary of the other person’s belief, but state something true about your beliefs, when necessary or possible.
- Change the subject.“We are not going to agree on this, can we change the subject.” “You and I work together, so can we agree to disagree about this?”
Words and phrases that don’t work: Fact, studies show, the Constitution says, any educated person knows, your statistics are wrong, you don’t get the big picture.
Social fear alone –without physical threat – is powerful.
- Grounding exercise.
- Id places where personal tension shows in the body.
- Childish insults and how you handle it.
Deciding if you should talk directly to an aggressor. Most people should not. Problems:
- You could be perceived as a target by the hater.
- You could be perceived as allied with the hater.
People first notice race and gender, then age, then other things. (You can’t modify race or gender or appearance of age without a great deal of commitment to the task.)
- Innate things – Race, gender, age
- More innate things – height, size, strength, intelligence, reflexes/agility, appearance of health and vitality…
- Learned/developed skills –listening skills, questioning skills, organizational skills, appearance of status and authority, appearance of compassion, or wit, or genuineness, or honesty, or articulateness, or calmness, or likeability…
This is the first of the D’s that you are going to learn about.
Direct (respond directly to the aggressor) If you are not in a position to address the aggressor, the tactics below are for you. Direct confrontation works best when you’re addressing the behavior of a known and trusted position. It does not generally work well when drugs or alcohol are involved. Some men are more effective doing this instead of approaching the target, if the target is female.
Verbal tactics: When you are talking TO the aggressor:
We all can intervene directly with some aggressor. Most adults have done so with children and adolescents.
- The calm, direct, confident, assertive-but-not-aggressive style of engagement works best for situations in the beginning stages, where emotions haven’t been stirred up too much and things are still relatively under control.
Authority voice. “Stop that!” “You need to leave her alone.” You can also name the behavior out loud. “You are yelling.” “Don’t touch me!”
Turn up the intensity. The aggressor touches, crowds, or threatens to push or punch.
Practice saying “No,” calmly and firmly. You cannot. You may not. You must stop. Pacing: This is counterintuitive. same intensity and volume Then, slowly step it back
Strategies for assisting without engaging the aggressor.
The overall goal is to defuse the situation and separate people who are hostile to one another.
The target of the aggression is being threatened. You aim to help, while allowing the target autonomy and control.
- Decide if interaction is appropriate, or problematic
- Take responsibility
- Decide how to react
Headphones, hoods, phones books
Be attuned to body language and how it changes.
- Decide if interaction is appropriate, or problematic:
Trust your gut. Survival skills/reptile brains. Feel danger.
Look for signs: racing heart and pulse, dilated pupils, muscle readiness
Before you step in, scan your environment.
Look for aggressive postures:
Violation of personal space. Loud and hostile language. Where are their hands? Cues that there are weapons available to the aggressor.
- Take responsibility:
Decisions you can make ahead of time about what actions you are in a position to take, and which you cannot.
Consider these beforehand:
- Am I feeling well today? Am I clear-headed? Given that, what can I do today?
- Who am I with at this moment? Could I endanger them?
- Am I doing something that could cause me to be injured or arrested?
Then, in the moment, you know what you can commit to.
- Decide how to react:
Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. What are the best ways to stop aggression in a public place?
Act confident. Try to react with your head, not your heart.
Before moving a muscle, slowly breathe OUT, then in, five times.
Body language: keep your chin lifted, your spine straight, feet planted, knees slightly bent.
Voice: calm and firm as possible. Slow it down. Control the volume to slightly loud.
Eyes: Alert. Maintain direct eye contact, but without malice.
If you have to imagine yourself playing a role—think of the most confident, graceful person you know, fictional or real life, do it.
Approach as assertive (but not mutually aggressive), confident, and as calm as you can, that’s the first step toward defusing a situation.
Tactics for when you are not talking to the aggressor.
Assertive ignoring: This is suitable for responding to street ranters and street harassment. Maintaining your space, calmly. Keep a confident posture and keep moving. Refuse to engage.
One person start ranting. Everyone else, figure out how to assertively ignore.
- Physical strategies:
Direct (respond directly to the aggressor) covered above.
Distract (distracting either person in the situation)
Distract the aggressor:
- question about directions, or some other neutral topic. (This works best when the bystander is a larger, white man, but it can work with other bold people or groups of interveners.)
- faking a fall or dropping a lot of things, then making a lot of noise about it. Everyone is distracted. Works better in crowded places.
Distract the target: This technique is used when you know the target and you are in a public place. This is a date-rape intervention.
- Text or phone call. By interrupting, your friend may have the option to say, “I’ll be right back, nature calls!” or “I have to go!” Also, this gives your friend the opportunity to tell you everything is OK.
- Involve the target in another conversation.
- Keep a respectful personal space. Don’t crowd the target. Don’t touch or physically guide.
- Ask if you can sit there/stand there. Introduce yourself by name.
- Do you need help? Is this person bothering you?
- Suggest that the targeted person move away, don’t demand it.
Follow the target’s instructions – he or she does not need more disempowerment! If you are good a play-acting, pretend you know the target and see if you can get them to play along.
Three people. Aggressor, target, and bystander. Aggressor begins bothering a target. Bystander distracts either the aggressor or the target.
An adult man crowding a teenage young woman.
Two people. You don’t know if they know one another. Maybe partners.
A hate speaker aiming at a minority person.
Debrief. How did it feel to be the aggressor? The target? Bystander? What cues told you it was safe/not safe to do this alone?
Draw attention Ask people in the space to look up. “Hey everyone, that man is yelling at that woman, please look up!” “Look up, I need help!”
- Figure out what you’d be comfortable doing. Brainstorm!
- Yelling, “LOOK UP!”
- Asking the person next to you to look up and pass it on?
Delegate (bring in other people to help get a person in trouble to safety.)
Distance Separate the harmdoer from the target, physically, by asking the target to move or having a group to surround the target and turn their collective backs on the harmdoer. This is commonly effective in stranger interactions in closed spaces, like public transportation.
In open spaces, walk the target away from the harmdoer. Continue to speak loudly, calling for people to “look up.” “Look up, this man is bothering us!” “Help, this man is bothering us!”
Delegate and Distance
Everyone. One person in roles of aggressor and target. Everyone else, figure out how to communicate with other people to create a multi-person intervention.
Delay When at all possible, check in with the target after the incident is over. This is true of hostile shouts, stares, or prolonged aggressive incidents. You can validate the personhood of the target by acknowledging that you saw what happened. He or she may be stunned and need a friend at that moment. He or she may need medical care or not feel safe enough to get home alone.
Other justice-affirming actions:
The Power of Monitoring Key points:
- Social harassment: Your presence may make an aggressive person go away. This is an effective date-rape prevention tactic. It also helps with mild levels of street harassment.
For non-white people, immigrants, GLBTQ people, religious minorities, and other oppressed people, the police cannot be depended on as a force for their good. DO NOT contact the police without the consent of the targeted person.
- Police brutality:
If you see police outnumbering someone being arrested, stand nearby and watch. Recruit other people to join you. Just watch.
If the police tell you to move on, do so s-l-o-w-l-y.
Video is a powerful tool in bringing violent police to justice. Video if possible. Download in real time or ASAP. There are tutorials on how to do this and good apps. Practice this. Do not make it obvious that you are recording. Practice aiming the camera while keeping the phone out of sight. Stand behind a tree or car, if you can.
Warning: people have been arrested for videoing. People have had their phones confiscated. Know your rights before doing this.