Imagine you’re walking down the hall with some friends and meet up with a group of people in Schilling. You and your friends are joking around, having some fun before the next class, when a member of the group makes an offensive joke directed at another member of the group. Everyone freezes; no one knows what to say.
Who should speak up in this situation? The oppressed individual whom the joke was directed towards or the bystanders in the group?
Who should address the offensive joke?
This question seems troubling and can have different answers, but it should never be the job of the oppressed individual to stand up for themselves every single time. Though it is important to stand up for oneself and address wrongdoing, witnesses need to speak up. It is not only common sense to recognize when an offensive thing has been said or done, but also to address it and explain why it’s wrong. If something has been wrongfully said or done, then this is the job of the bystander to stand up for and support who this wrong act was directed towards. It’s crucial for the bystanders to explain why an event or saying is wrong if the oppressed individual is unable or unwilling. The oppressed individual could be hesitant to address the inequality directly in fear of making the situation awkward or of being an annoyance, which is where bystanders can and should step in to address the inequality and back up the oppressed individual in addressing it.
Many people face offensive microaggressions every day to the point where it can be harmful and negatively impactful. Microaggressions seen in everyday life include insults, jokes, putdowns, offensive behavior and more. These microaggressions are usually said by people who don’t know what they’re saying is offensive or that they are demeaning a community. This is why, as a bystander, the most essential step to take when faced with an uncomfortable microaggression directed towards another is educate the individual who said it on why what they said was wrong. According to the American Psychological Association, microaggressions are very different from “everyday rudeness,” specifically racial microaggressions, in the sense that it can be a constant reminder for those who receive them of their second class struggle in modern society among other harmful things. The article adds that these comments and actions can represent a burden of stress on the oppressed individual.
If they are unable or unwilling, it shouldn’t be only the job of the oppressed individual to address microaggressions others express onto them. Bystanders need to stand up for and support their fellow peers and friends when faced with an offensive situation, and call on others to so as well, but also make sure that they are not silencing those who they are defending. Bystanders should address the inequality and explain to the individual who said it why it is wrong instead of brushing it off or leaving it all up to the individual it was directed towards.