Bystander Intervention: Here Are 5 Strategies That You Can Use

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By MICHELLE TIO, Rafu Digital Team

Rates of anti-Asian Pacific Islander hate crimes have increased dramatically since the coronavirus pandemic began. In California alone, more than 800 incidents of anti-API harassment and discrimination have occurred. Instances of verbal assault have gone viral on social media.

The United States continues to grapple with questions of racism as football teams have been renamed, statues have been toppled, and police brutality has been exposed. Another worrisome trend is the increase in COVID-19 infections; for a coronavirus cases skyrocket, it is highly likely that anti-API discrimination will increase as well.

In this context, many have been asking — what can I do to help decrease instances of discrimination? 

Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice offer solutions to this question. Here are five strategies they recommend on how to safely intervene during instances of anti-API harassment:

1. Distract

De-escalate the situation by drawing attention away from the individual being harassed. In public, this might look like engaging in a casual conversation with the person being harassed. For example, you could ask, “Hi, do you know where the closest grocery store is?”

If you see harassment occurring online, concentrate on the harasser. If you know the individual conducting the harassment and feel safe intervening, ask the individual questions unrelated to the harassment to shift his/her/their focus.

2. Delegate

Ask someone near you to intervene. You could state, “That woman over there is being verbally attacked, would you feel comfortable saying something?”

Additionally, if there is an authority figure* (like a grocery store manager) nearby, you can ask them for assistance as well.

Online, you can report the incident to the platform in which the harassment occurred. For example, if the harassment happened on Instagram, you can report the incident to Instagram.

*Remember: if you are thinking about calling the police, obtain consent from the person being harassed first. Calling the police for certain individuals — such as Black people, immigrants, and people of color — can actually lead to more harm.

3. Document

Document the harassment through pictures or videos. If the harassment is happening online, take screenshots. Then, give the documentation to the individual who experienced the harassment. That way, the most impacted individual can decide how best to move forward.

4. Delay

Check in with the individual who experienced harassment. Ways to check in include asking questions such as: “Can I sit with you? Is it okay if I accompany you somewhere?”

In online settings, check-ins can involve sending a direct message, sharing information about digital security, and messaging cheerful content.

5. Direct

Speak up when discrimination and harassment is happening. Explicitly name the problematic behavior, such as, “That’s racist.” Express observations like, “She looks uncomfortable, why don’t you leave her alone?” Ask pointed questions. For instance, if someone calls COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” you can ask, “What do you mean when you say ‘Chinese virus’?”

Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice are offering free virtual workshops to train individuals on how to decrease anti-API coronavirus harassment and discrimination. If you would like to learn more, go to www.ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention/.

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