I have recently developed a Web Repository – The Racial Intervention Story Exchange – where students, teachers, employees, managers, and other concerned people can exchange stories of the ways in which they have intervened across racial lines. When European Americans consider racism in the US, they often think of the KKK and skinheads, but what dominates the attention of many people-of-color are what Lauren Nile calls the “Daily Indignities,” the relentless episodes of mistreatment that they are subjected to by shop-keepers, police, airline agents, and others in the commercial sphere. The good news for supportive “white” people, who feel overwhelmed at the prospect going up against the Klan, is that they can actually have a greater impact by instead intervening when they see everyday racism passing before their eyes.
Interrupting these instances of racism just takes a willingness to try and some idea of how to proceed. I hope that this repository will fill the latter need, which in turn will boost confidence and willingness. It contains encouraging and cautioning stories from other ordinary people, of all ethnicities, that describe what they saw, how they responded, and what resulted. A typical example from two of my students:
“A little while back, Andrew … (who is also in Senior Inquiry) and I were sitting at a typical, everyday lunch table with 2 or 3 other guys. One of the guys began telling jokes, not racist at first, but still probably not the type of jokes that would be considered “appropriate.” We didn’t mind [at first]. However, when he began to tell a racist joke, an interesting thing happened as a result of the previous Senior Inquiry class. During that class, Jack had talked about options for intervention. It was almost comical how we looked at each other without a word, and got up and left the table. We truly didn’t want to be around that anyway, and we definitely let the jokester know. It was actually quite funny, maybe because we felt that we had made a difference. It was a great feeling. (Brian, Beaverton, OR, 2000)”
Please consider sending me your own stories for inclusion, either by filling out this form, or by emailing me, Jack Straton. The categories included will be expanded as required by the contributed stories, but presently include the following:
So exactly how do I
. . .talk to my peers?
. . . deal with customers who act out?
. . . talk to my parents?
. . . intervene with shopkeepers?
. . . bear witness to the actions of authorities?
Does kindness count?
Communication techniques that help others to accept your comments.
What about inter-ethnic mistreatment?
Using humor. The power to name.
I am also including stories about intervention across lines of the other oppressions that are interlinked with racism:
Homophobia & Heterosexism
Over the next few weeks, as you navigate the site, you should expect to find a number of pages with just one representative story (or “under construction”) as I flesh things out, but if you find a serious problem, please let me know.