Why We Need to Speak Up
- “Interrupt jokes and comments” is on this pdf about being a Strong White Ally by racialequitytools.org
- "Interrupt Early" is first on the list in this article about What to do about Casual Comments in the Workplace.
- "Check In and Speak Up" and "Understand that Silence is Complicit" are two main points on this article about How to be a Better Ally for your Black Coworkers.
- "If you don't speak up, you're surrendering part of yourself. You're letting bigotry win." from Six Steps to Speak Up.
- "Many of the white people I know have no concept of the role they have, passively or actively, played in perpetuating these conditions. They have no idea how much we long to hear them speak up for us, and to embrace some of the discomfort around these issues with us." from Reflections from a Token Black Friend
- Ivirlei's instagram video on allyship, speaking up, and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a must-watch.
This article continues by focusing on racism in the workplace. But we should be speaking up whenever this happens; whether it's at work or in our daily lives. And my friend made the point that it's extra important to speak up when kids are present, because kids soak up everything, and will tend to assume that anything an adult says is OK. He then shared this story:
Why We Should Speak Up Right Away
- If no one speaks out at the time, I assume that everyone in my surroundings is either OK with the behavior, or has valued their own comfort more than the damage that was just done to my credibility/reputation/authority. For a while, or maybe even forever if it's never publicly addressed, everyone who hears it thinks that it's acceptable behavior and they're encouraged to behave accordingly.
- When something is handled "offline" you never reaaally know what's being said. Is Dave saying to Jim, "Jim, you know these people are really sensitive to remarks that like, and darn all this political correctness, but we don't want to get sued." Or, is Dave saying to Jim, "Jim, that was totally inappropriate and you really owe Tiffany an apology. It's not cool to make racist/sexist remarks at any time, and definitely not here in this workplace." Not knowing how you're being framed in the conversation can actually perpetuate the problem.
- The idea of an immediate and outspoken objection being "inappropriate" or "unprofessional" is absolutely a tool that those in the position of power use to maintain their power. If speaking out is viewed negatively as "not professional" or "making waves", then fewer people will do it, and it will also be harder to identify allies and form a coalition. Also, keep in mind - the thing that was actually inappropriate and unprofessional was the racist or sexist comment that was made in the first place!
OK, But What Do I Say?
- Surprise can be a sign of privilege. Because being the object of racism isn't a part of our daily lives, we white people aren't expecting it and are surprised when it happens. Instead of assuming a world where racism doesn't exist, let's assume a world in which it does exist, and be on the lookout for it. We want men to be more vigilant and actually see sexism when it occurs, we can do the same for racism.
- Read, read, read, and be prepared with some responses. Asking a person to explain the joke to you, or saying "why is that funny?" can put them in the position of having to publicly confront their own bias. Six Steps to Speak Up gives some other very good specific examples. Speak Up: Responding to Everday Bigotry by the SPLC provides an extensive list of suggestions, ones specifically for the workplace here.
- Have a default response that's good for any situation - I really liked one of our members' idea of just saying, "Oh, WOW." It allows you to immediately grab the floor (instead of just being stunned into silence), it voices disapproval, and it also gives you a second to think about what to follow it up with.
- Don't laugh it off. We sometimes laugh nervously or out of discomfort, especially if we're the subject of the remark. Don't do it. You deserve some respect and dignity.