Bystander Intervention: This is more an incident where…
This is more an incident where I felt I managed to overcome an unexpected expression of racism. It wasn’t directed towards me. However, I believe this could be useful in preparing: I’ve related to the “offender’s” words while directly offering a productive solution. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure I reacted in the best way, but it worked reasonably well. I keep looking for insights, because I know it’s an ongoing challenge.
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The following section is taken from a full story (of actual events) I am working on these days.
Between 2017 and 2018 I was working in a firm where I reported to my boss and collaborated with the factory’s shop manager. In one of our routine discussions, our boss described the difficulties in communicating with a person in the other company. “I don’t want to sound racist,” he said “but he’s brown.” In the fraction of a second it took me to respond my mind spun in disbelief. “Wow! This is actually happening.” I thought. I hear about racial incidents on the radio. I read about them in newspapers, in books. However, that was the first time I was in a professional context, listening to what to me was an utterly stupid remark.
We are all capable of thinking racist thoughts. We are all capable of making “racist” mistakes. It seems unrealistic to me to divert people’s years long “screwed up” thought process and undesirable habits. I was even able to appreciate the honesty in which my boss expressed his thought. But his remark begged to be addressed.
So, in the fraction of a moment’s disbelief I managed to gather my thoughts and say “So, don’t (in response to “I don’t want to sound racist”). Let’s deal with whatever we have control over and discuss our terms openly.” I wasn’t sure my response was the best possible, but our boss seemed to take a step back and agree.
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And again, I wish I did more than that. But it was one small incident. One small step. I hope this story helps to inspire contemplation in you, the reader.
Thanks for taking the time.