In a recent opinion piece for CBC, Irfan Chaudhry asked “Can we all just get along?” Here, the director of MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity shares three things we can all do to combat hate.
1. Know it when you see it
Hateful language can include inflammatory negative comments related to someone’s identity, derogatory or discriminatory terms, and slurs. Sometimes they’re overt and easy to spot – someone using a slur directly. Other times, Irfan says it’s more subtle.
“Someone talking about immigration might say, “It's fine if they come here, but I just can’t understand why they can't adapt to our way of life.” It sounds very ‘neutral-ish’ on the surface, but there are a lot of covert things going on in terms of acceptance – who we welcome and who we don't.”
2. Challenge yourself
It’s easy to get trapped in a bubble of like-minded thinking when your news feeds are filled with information and opinions from people who generally share your values and beliefs, says Irfan. Circulating within that bubble often leads you to forums, blog posts and Facebook pages that reaffirm the same narrative. “That impacts how you look at the world, and makes it easier to ignore points of view that don’t reinforce your ideas and perspectives,” he says.
He adds that filtering out content that challenges us and our values-based perspectives – whether by unfollowing or unfriending people on social media or IRL – only amplifies what’s happening inside our echo chambers.
The first steps in breaking out, suggests Irfan, involve thinking critically and considering letting differing points of view find their way onto your feed – and into your life.
3. Challenge others
The same environment that makes it easier to say nasty things online than in person also makes it easier to stand up and say something. “People seem to be more comfortable intervening in hateful online interactions because it's less risk-averse,” Irfan says. “There's no one there to physically confront you.”
But what should you do when the hateful words are hanging in the air right in front of you? Irfan suggests looking to the three principles of bystander intervention: direct, distract or delegate.
“If we’re in a public space and someone makes a racist comment, most people freeze,” says Irfan. “We don't want to even acknowledge it happened. But ignoring it reaffirms that kind of thinking is the norm.”
Depending on your comfort level, here are some things you can do:
Direct: Talk to the person making the comments (without escalating the situation) and ask them, “Why would you say something like that?” or “I understand you're angry, but why do you need to berate someone else?”
Distract: Focus your attention on the person that's on the receiving end of the comment and help get them out of the situation. Try saying something like, “Don’t worry about this person. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Let's go over here.” You can debrief later.
Delegate: Oftentimes people think they have to engage directly in the moment, says Irfan, but if you’re not comfortable doing that, there are things you can do to address what happened after the fact. If the incident happens while you’re using public transit, for example, tell the driver. If you’re in a store, talk to a manager.
If you’re interested in learning more, the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity offers informal anti-discrimination response training, and Irfan says his office is happy to have those conversations with students, faculty and staff.
Gender-based pay inequity, turban and hijab awareness, unconscious bias and Indigenous drumming. These are just some of the topics you’ll learn about or events you can participate in. Join us across campus from March 18 to 22.
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