Assume the role of educator
Once we have succeeded in engaging the other person in a conversation, we can dig deeper and explore the underlying rationale or origins of the comment or behaviour. For example, we can inquire about the following:
- What do they really believe?
- What did they really mean?
- Did they understand what they were saying?
When we interrupt a racist, homophobic or sexist incident, part of what we are doing is teaching. We are assuming the best of students, for example, that they lack information that we are providing. For example, if students tell us they were “just kidding”, or they didn’t mean anything bad, we can teach them:
- about the power of words
- “Actually those words are hurtful. They perpetuate hate and intolerance and ultimately they are violent words. Even if it’s not physical violence, you are hurting someone right now by using that language.”
- about the impact of the words they chose
- we can give reasons why the words are hurtful: “Those words put people down because of something basic about them.”
- about other ways to express what they needed to say
- “I know you didn’t like that song, but is there some other way of saying that other than calling it gay? Because gay is a person, it’s not an insult.”