The response to George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis policemen has ignited widespread protests throughout the US, the UK and globally. #BlackLivesMatter, a Black-led movement demanding police accountability and justice has galvanised multi-racial anger and frustration over the repeated killings of Black men and women and structural racism. At the University of Bath, we recognise that we are witnessing a pivotal moment that will reshape our relationship with Black lives, and will have profound implications for our collective future.
Whilst many of us might feel disgust over acts of racism, covert or overt, we might not have necessarily had the lived experience of racism directly. As a result, this can make it hard to understand what racism is and be able to demonstrate support for those it impacts daily. The current conversations around Black Lives Matter are woven into an environment where microaggressions, (defined as, verbal, behavioural, and environmental indignities that are often unintentional, but communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial insults), are often a daily experience for many of our Black and BAME colleagues and students.
We can all help to create a more inclusive community to end the pain, hurt and exhaustion that our Black community is feeling. This resource page can help us to understand how to respond to inappropriate comments, how to be a good ally, and how we can all help to combat racism whether covert or overt within our university.
If you have 30 minutes we recommend watching this video 'The Remains of Slavery' about Bath and Bristol.
Being an ally
- Avoid assumptions
- Listen with empathy
- Don’t talk over the individual
- Listen more talk less
- Give your full attention
- Check the lens that you are listening through
- Listen, hear, understand, and then act
Avoid rationalising bad behaviour
- Don’t explain away someone’s bad behaviour
- If you feel you’re making excuses, you probably are
- Try to listen, understand, and support
- It’s not the victim’s responsibility to educate you
- This does not just fall to a small group of us, this is everyone’s responsibility
- Take your time and energy to educate yourself
- Seek out a diverse community to understand different points of view
- Recognise your social conditioning
- Take yourself out of your echo chamber
- Remember just because you don’t experience it does not mean it does not happen
- What someone is going through is very real to them
- We all experience and see life through a different lens – open your eyes to different lenses
- The emphasis has to be on your impact not your intent
Speak up! Not over
- Don’t talk over those you are trying to support
- Amplify rather than overshadow
- It is not enough to be offended and simply refrain from a behaviour, be actively anti-racist
- If you see it, hear about it or know about it – speak up!
- Tell the bullies their jokes, comments, approach is not welcome
- Use inclusive language
- Self-reflect more, check your unconscious bias and behaviours
- Saying you are an ally does not make you one, actions do
- Limited interaction isn’t enough
- Be a prosocial bystander, not passive
- Don’t expect kudos or thanks
- Understand this is the right thing to do, and how it fits with your values
Understand your privilege
- Know that there are some things you will never experience
- Recognise there are situations you will never have to think about
- Understand that you don’t have to walk in others shoes daily experiencing what they can not change, in order to see it and take action
- Acknowledge that privilege is not something you choose but does come with unearned benefits
- We’re human, mistakes happen
- Recognise it, own it
- Apologise, but don’t make it about you
- Apologise without caveats
- Move on and learn from it.
Responding to inappropriate comments and behaviours
Inappropriate behaviours, comments, microaggressions, and structural discriminators are often invisible to the majority and entrenched in our culture and society. When faced with challenging conversations about movements such as #BlackLivesMatter or any form of discrimination, it can be difficult to know what to say, how to support and what to do.
Examples include: Verbal abuse, insults, inappropriate jokes, ridicule, unwanted physical contact, leering, menacing behaviour, isolation, micro-aggressions, inappropriate advances, inappropriate/outdated language, overt and covert discrimination.
Here are a few suggestions of how you can help:
Remember the four D’s:
Direct Action - directly intervene, for example, by asking the person to stop immediately or call out negative behaviour, explaining why it is not OK.
Distraction - indirectly intervene, for example, de-escalating by interrupting or changing the subject or focus. Useful where the direct approach may be harmful to the target or bystander.
Delay - wait for the situation to pass and check in with the individual. Take action at a later stage when you have had time to consider.
Delegation - inform a more senior member of staff, someone with social power or authority.
Or you can approach the situation in one of the following ways:
Present another way of viewing the situation
Confrontation does not always mean saying “You’re wrong.” A more subtle form of confrontation can be saying “That’s not always right.”
When a microaggression sneaks into your everyday conversation, a gentle redirection regarding why a given statement is not altogether true or factual can be helpful.
Shift and open the conversation ever so slightly, some examples of how you can start that conversation include:
- I experience that like...
- I’ve heard it explained like...
- That could also mean...
- That could also be experienced through...
Challenge the microagression
A challenge can simply be saying “That’s not my experience, and it’s not the experience of many other people.”
Language you can use to challenge microaggressions include:
- I’ve heard/experienced the opposite...
- Some people would tell you...
- I’m not sure that reflects my experiences...
- I have felt differently when...
Another good way of challenging microaggessions is to ask questions:
- Where have you heard that?
- Who have you talked to about that?
- Do you think there are other opinions about that?
- How might someone disagree with that?
Express your disagreement
Simply say, “That’s not right.” No further explanation is necessary.
You are not a full-time educator. You can express your disagreement and simply say, “I am not interested in having this conversation right now, but it’s important for you to know that I am not okay with what you just said.”
You have taken time and effort to do your homework. So can they.
Educate and explain why you disagree
You are not going to reverse years of social conditioning in one conversation, however, it is an opportunity to plant a seed of dissent; over the years, that seed can grow as more information is provided to counteract the inappropriate messages we receive daily.
It is important to remember: Good people can (and do) engage in microaggressions. People you love can (and do) engage in microaggressions.
That doesn’t make it hurt any less. It also doesn’t make these conversations any easier. But challenging them can help create more honest communication with those around you.
At the very least, it can help them understand where you’re coming from and establish boundaries around certain topics.
Change or redirect the conversation
You may not always feel comfortable directly challenging microaggressions. You may not be in a space where you feel like it would be helpful, either for the person you are confronting or for yourself.
If you hear a microaggression, you always have the option to indirectly confront it by simply changing the topic. This doesn’t have the same level of satisfaction or impact as intervening, but it can stop a comment from turning into an inappropriate conversation.
It might feel awkward at first, but redirection can be effective when you feel like other conversations might simply escalate.
Just like you are not a full-time educator, you are not required to intervene at every microaggression you witness. There will be times when you will choose to do nothing. That might depend on the environment you are in, the power differentials in the conversation, your own level of comfort, and your own level of burnout. That’s okay.
Watch this short video - Brené Brown on Empathy
Personal tips for us going forward
- Use the reflective journal prompts available from equality, diversity and inclusion
- Familiarise yourself with the inclusive language guide created by equality, diversity and inclusion
- Commit to doing the anti-racism training and University of Leicester Hate Crime training
- Seek out anti-racist educators and trainers. Attend their classes, courses, workshops – there are plenty online. Self-reflect and act
- Curate from the resources below, anti-racism education and follow through with your responsibility to it
- Show up – meetings, events, and conversations.
- Financially support BAME work and organisations
- Uplift, centre, pay and elevate BAME / BME leaders and teachers
- Uphold your commitments to living a life of integrity for your anti-racist views
- Watch resources from our regulators, such as this from the Office for Students