What do you do when someone makes a racist comment?
Say nothing? Say something? Shrug it off with an awkward laugh?
What should you do when that happens? That’s the question to be answered during the Community Bystander Workshop. The two-part Zoom presentation on April 26 and 28 is hosted by the Hope Inclusion Project (HIP) in partnership with the Resilience B.C. Anti-Racism Network, and promises to teach attendees how to identify, interrupt and address racism.
Training is being delivered by the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.
“When we’re living in civil society and we witness something where an individual is engaging in racist language or behaviour, it shocks us and we’re not sure what to do,” said HIP’s Peter Bailey, who will be one of the workshop’s participants. “This workshop will provide tools to help us appropriately intervene in a way that de-escalates the situation.”
A local man of South Asian descent, he has dealt with racism in his life. Sometimes it’s overt. Sometimes it’s subtle.
“I grew up in a pretty white area. I went to a school where there may have been four or five kids of colour,” Bailey said. “The acts of racism included violence, slapping and punching, and all-out name calling. Kids thought nothing of spitting on me. It was pretty disgusting. When I moved to Canada, I found the racism I experienced to be much more subtle.”
Bailey said his wife is white, and every once in a while they get what they call ‘the look’ from someone who finds a mixed-raced couple to be curious or objectionable.
“Getting followed around a grocery store is always a weird one,” he said. “One of my colleagues at work has lived in the Agassiz/Harrison area for most of his life. He’s a middle-class working Indigenous man, and just recently, he told me that whenever he goes to a particular store, they follow him around.”
Bailey said the subtle racism is harder to deal with. At least with the overt type, you can call it out immediately.
“When someone’s following you around a store you can say ‘Are you following me?’ and they can just say ‘No,’” Bailey said.
The idea of the workshop is not to call out racism with the intent to cause a fight. It’s to intervene in a way that doesn’t lead to conflict.
“My approach would be to say, ‘Hey, that’s racist,’ as opposed to attacking the person and saying, ‘Hey, you’re a racist,’” Bailey explained. “Instead of making it about what you are as a person, it’s about what you’re doing, and maybe that helps to de-escalate that situation so people can remain safe, while also bringing some consciousness to it.
“Sometimes we do things, including me, that we just don’t realize are racist or hateful because of the way we’ve been socialized. It’s just how we behave.”
Day one of the workshop is April 26, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.
Day two is April 28, from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
The workshop is free, but registration is required. Find the link to register online at facebook.com/events/396848202273692/396848205607025/