By Shirley

Recently, several IN members had the opportunity to participate in a seminar organized by the Washtenaw County Health Department about how to intervene to stop harassment.

I have gathered here my notes on the seminar and focused this article on what to do if you witness these situations around town – in stores or in the street. I have not broached the subject of virtual/internet harassment in here.

For Asians and Asian Americans in this country, the pandemic not only brought fear of COVID but also fear of hate and violence against them, for the sole reason of their ethnicity. Prejudice against any group, either because of their race, their ability,  their gender or gender identification will eventually cause problems for all society.

May W. in her article this month mentions how her family was hurt by what happened to them and how the consequences reverberated long afterwards, affecting even her children. Psychological scars, fear and trust issues are the obvious consequences for the victims of prejudice, harassment and violence. But there are also other consequences that are felt in society. If people lose their trust in fellow citizens, in their neighbors, social and financial problems are not far behind. If a neighborhood doesn’t feel safe, then businesses in those areas start to close. If a whole community starts breaking apart, laws and policies will also start to reflect the stagnation of that community.

We should not let ignorance and prejudice prevail in our society. But we can only reach out and befriend those people that are open to forming new relationships. The truth is that not all people are willing to let go of their preconceived ideas. We can only hope that one day they too will reach the point where they can perceive how destructive their behavior is. Until they see the light, we need to protect those that are vulnerable.

What should you do if you witness someone being harassed?

The Bystander Intervention to Stop Anti-Asian/American Harassment seminar taught us some ways to deal with these sorts of situations. They called it the 5D method:

  1. Distract: The first thing to do is to de-escalate the situation. If you see someone being bullied, you should create a diversion so that the attention of the aggressor is moved from the victim. It could be as simple as coming between the aggressor and the victim. For example: in a street, you could ask for directions to the nearest restaurant or you could drop your beverage on the floor. if in a store, you could bring the shopping cart between them and/or pretend to want an item near the aggressor, in fact blocking their view of the victim.
  2. Delegate: If you don’t feel comfortable trying to create a diversion or the situation feels unsafe to you, you should delegate the task to someone with more perceived power. You can call a cashier or the manager of the store. If the situation escalated enough where it involves violence, then calling the police might be the solution. The leaders of the seminar caution, though, that in today’s social and political climate, it is better to ask the victim if he or she would like you to call the police.
  3. Document: If you are sure that the situation is being cared for by someone else, let’s say by the store manager, but the aggressor has still not backed down or for some other reason you realize the need for documenting the situation, use your phone and start filming. Share your file with the victim afterwards so that he or she has proof of the incident.
  4. Delay: Once the situation is over, take your time to make sure the victim is ok. Just the fact that you are reaching out to the victim to make sure he or she is alright might in itself give the victim a sense of relief – a sense that they are not alone.
  5. Direct: If the situation calls for it, and you are comfortable with facing the aggressor directly and safely, you could confront the assailant. Be aware not to escalate the situation or make it worse. You don’t know how violent people will react, so please be careful when confronting someone.

When intervening on a situation, always make sure that you are safe. If you don’t feel safe, call someone else for help. Report hate incidents : 1-844-9-NO-HATE or at