In the years following the 9/11 attacks, we changed as a people. Fear crept across our country invoking all manner of defensive reactions. Unfortunately, fear invites exaggerated suspicions and outright phobias.
Of course, we must always remain vigilant. No argument about that. We would be foolish not to vet all who request acceptance into our country. And yet, as horrifying as any threat from terrorists appears to be, we face an additional menace from groups of our own citizens.
“White Nationalists” and groups sympathetic to their thinking threaten to rip apart our core values. Increased activity from the Klu Klux Klan endangers our neighbors. Groups that emulate Nazi Germany insult our humanity. Hatred of our own citizens imperils everything this country values:
- freedom of speech,
- freedom of religion,
- freedom of the press,
- the right to bear arms,
- the right to assemble,
- equal justice.
The question before us challenges, “What do we ordinary citizens do if we witness discrimination toward others? Maeril, a freelance artist living in Paris, created a series of cartoons demonstrating ways to respond to verbal assaults on others. Although Maeri directs her suggestions to Islamphobia, her ideas fit many verbally abusive situations. Below, you will find Maeri’s suggestions.
- If you notice someone being verbally mistreated, ignore the attacker and begin a quiet conversation with the person being assaulted.
- Talk about any random subject such as the weather or a movie.
- Create a “safe space” for the individual without looking at or saying anything to the aggressor.
- As soon as the abusive person leaves, accompany the individual to a quiet, neutral space. “Respect their wishes if they tell you they’re ok and just want to go.”
A good friend suggested asking the abusive person, “Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?” A simple act of kindness may be the highest road to take. I believe that either approach requires facing our fears and our own discomfort. Our great nation, composed of immigrants from many countries, now faces internal threats. Will we have the courage to respond?
Hartley, William, V. Williams. “The Rights and Freedoms of Americans”. American Civics. N.Y. 1974. http://www.tep-online.info/laku/usa/rights.htm
Maeril. “What to Do If You See Islamophobic Harassment.” Sojourners. 09-01-2016. https://sojo.net/articles/what-do-if-you-see-islamophobic-harrassment