Last year, the new decade (2020) ushered in a wave of unprecedented events–wildfires, an alarming spike in police brutality in the United States, and the issue still at the forefront of minds across the globe: Covid-19. When pandemic shutdowns began in March of 2020, experts warned us of the repercussions of the racist nicknames for the virus. Day after day, everyone from ordinary citizens to elected officials referred to it as “kung flu” or “the Chinese virus”. And as predicted, the number of reported anti-Asian hate crimes has steadily risen. Stop AAPI Hate, a tracker recently developed by several Asian American advocacy groups, has recorded over 2,800 incidents of racism targeting Asian Americans between March 2020 and December 2020. Unfortunately, these pointed attacks aren’t slowing down.
So what do you do? Staying informed is important, but what happens if you’re an actual bystander in an incident like this? Here are a few tips experts recommend.
De-Escalate – If possible, try to distract the harasser or the target. If there’s no risk, offer to walk the victim to safety, or move them towards a physical barrier. Take your cues from the person being harassed, and follow their lead. Try not to tone police, or push them out of their comfort zone.
Document – Record the incident. Note the date, time, and location. Engage other witnesses, and encourage them to record as well. Before calling the police, ask the victim if you have their permission. Calling can endanger many communities experiencing harassment right now, and the police may cause harm to the victim.
Don’t Leave – If the police are called, stay and give a statement. If you’re unable to physically intervene, hang around until the victim is safe, and offer support. Ask them if you can make calls on their behalf, get them a snack, or move them to a comfortable spot to sit and wait. Let them know that they are not alone.
Don’t stay silent.It’s more important than ever that we keep each other safe. The American Civil Liberties Union has more information on bystander intervention and taking action against hate.