Do You Want To Learn How To Dismantle Hatred In Your Neighborhood?

Nov 17, 2016

Forward Montana is a grassroots organization that encourages young Montanans to use the democratic process to improve their lives; they recently published a pamphlet to guide people through actionable steps to dismantle bigotry.
Credit (Photo Courtesy of Forward Montana)

When Last Best News journalist Ed Kemmick broke the story about hateful comments posted online by a Bilings business owner, he wasn't expecting the online news site to crash, too.

YPR's Brie Ripley spoke with Kemmick and Forward Montana Deputy Director Kiah Abbey about hatespeech, bigotry, and how to be a good neighbor.

From the Montanans United Against Hatred pamphlet published by Forward Montana:

Six Steps to Speak Up

1. Be ready

You know another moment like this will happen, so prepare yourself for it. Think of yourself as the one who will speak up. Promise yourself not to remain silent.

"Summon your courage, whatever it takes to get that courage, wherever that source of courage is for you," said Dr. Marsha Houston, chair of the Communication Studies Department at the University of Alabama.

To bolster that courage, have something to say in mind before an incident happens. Open-ended questions are a good response. "Why do you say that?" "How did you develop that belief?"

2. Identify the Behavior

Sometimes, pointing out the behavior candidly helps someone hear what they're really saying:

"Janice, what I hear you saying is that all Mexicans are lazy" (or whatever the slur happens to be). Or, "Janice, you're classifying an entire ethnicity in a derogatory way. Is that what I hear you saying?"

When identifying behavior, however, avoid labeling, name-calling or the use of loaded terms. Describe the behavior; don't label the person.

"If your goal is to communicate, loaded terms get you nowhere,' said Dr. K.E. Supriya, associate professor of communications at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and an expert in the role of gender and cultural identity communication.

"If you simply call someone a racist, a wall goes up."

3. Appeal to Principles

If the speaker is someone you have a relationship with (a sister, friend or co-worker, for example) call on their higher principles: "Bob, I've always thought of you as a fair-minded person, so it shocks me when I hear you say something that sounds so bigoted."

"Appeal to their better instincts," Houston said.
"Remember that people are complex. What they say in one moment is not necessarily an indication of everything they think."

4. Set Limits
You cannot control another person, but you can say, "Don't tell racist jokes in my presene anymore. If you do, I will leave." Or, "My workspace is not a place I allow bigoted remarks to be made. I can't control what you say outside of this space, but here I ask that you respect my wishes." Then follow through.

"The point is to draw a line, to say, 'I don't want you to use that language when I'm around.'" Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

"Even if attitudes don't change, by shutting off bad behavior, you are limiting its contagion. Fewer people hear it or experiene it."

5. Find an Ally/Be an Ally

When frustrated in your own campaign against everyday bigotry, seek out like-minded people and ask them to support you in whatever ways they can. And don't forget to return the favor:

If you aren't the first voice to speak up against bigotry, be the next voice.

"Always speak up, and never be silence out of fear," said Shane Windmeyer, founder and coordinator of Capus PrideNet and the Lambda 10 Project.

"To be an ally, we must lead by example and inspire others to do the same."

6. Be Vigilant

Remember: Change happens slowly. People make small steps, typically, not large ones. STay prepared, and keep speaking up. Don't risk silence.

"There's a sense of personal disappointment in having not said something when you felt you should have," said Ron Schlittler, acting executive director of the national office of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Carrolla put it this way: "If you don't speak up, you're surrendering part of yoruself. You're letting bigotry win."