Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Prepare to be an Active Bystander

The recent incidents of violence against people of Asian descent brings back a lot of memories of pre-California life. This is why I chose to raise my family in the Bay Area in the first place. I've posted a poem on the Kimchi Mamas blog for those interested in more detail of what I faced growing up back East.

An incident in New York City recently featured two security guards in a nearby building who seemed to do nothing to help an elderly woman being brutally assaulted right in front of them.  I share in the initial outrage against do-nothing bystanders. I like to think I would have stepped in to protect her, unlike those guards.  There have been times when I am proud to say I have indeed stepped in.  Me, the straight-A honors student got sent to the Principal's office in high school for fighting with a girl who was making fun of a friend.  (More like getting my butt kicked, but whatever...)

Then I remember the time I did nothing in a train full of people, and have to admit I shouldn't be judging anyone else. Years ago I was on light rail when a crazy man verbally assaulted a young woman for 10 minutes. Screaming in her face. And she was young, like 22. Some people tried to distract him but he was laser focused on her. I was not able to get up to physically interpose. I tried to catch her eye but she was just looking down trying to be as small as possible. She got off at the next stop to get away from him. The train was packed, and most of us just sat quietly, hoping the nutcase wouldn't see the rest of us. I was ashamed I didn't do more.
I added the light rail safety app to my phone and started sitting nearer the doors after that. Having had time to process what happened, I have mentally rehearsed what I could have done differently, to be better prepared next time. A friend shared some information from training she had on how to be an Active Bystander so I went looking for some public links for you all.  Have at it, read, think it through, and next time, do what you CAN do.
And one downside--sometimes, when trying to intervene when the victim and attacker know each other, the victim might not be grateful the way you expect.  Do what you can do, what you are comfortable doing, and that you know is right. That has to be enough.

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