Category Archives: Witnessing Harrassment

How Be a Friend

It’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day. And so, of course, Putin’s President, with the irony born of someone without a soul or a keen eye for history, chose today of all days to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

Naturally, that means anybody who “looks” Muslim will become even more of a target than they have been since Trump took us all down the gold escalator into hell.  It is now open season on “others” here in our nation of immigrants.

So what can we do about it?

I will admit that the safety pin movement left me feeling decidedly unhelpful.  It’s a nice thought, but it never made me feel like I was actually standing up for anyone.  Or like I was doing something to help people being targeted.

But a while back I saw this article that offered some practical suggestions that have some meat on the bones.  Really!  Click on the link.  Cause I’m not going to tell you everything it says.

Anyway, I like to think that I would be the kind of person who would stand up in any situation to protect those in need.  But frankly,  I’m overweight, slow moving, and cowardly.  They don’t make superheroes who look or act like me.  So the odds are NOT in my favor.  Besides, when something happens around me, I never have a clue what’s happening.  I generally stand there, looking around, confused.  Immobile.  Saying “WTF” with my mouth hanging open.  Quick witted I may be with words, but actions?  Not so much.

But the Vox article showed me a way to help when someone is being verbally assaulted, in situations where I am most likely to see it happen.  It’s brilliant.  And relatively safe.  Win-win.

Here’s an example.  Say you’re in Target, passing by the children’s section, when you hear a man harassing a woman in a hijab.  He’s big and burly, and you want to help. You also don’t want him to target you.  Still, you can’t just walk away, turn a blind eye.  You’re a good person!  You wouldn’t be able to look yourself in the mirror if you didn’t help.  But how?

Why, act like an idiot, of course.  Me, I’m a natural!  At acting the idiot, that is.  Not being one.  That’s the role of the racist.

You interrupt the jerk.  Wander in between him and his victim as if you’re looking for something, and can’t quite find it.  Request his help.  Be totally oblivious.  Give the poor target the opportunity to get away.  Think Roseann Rosanna Dana.


Gilda Radner as Roseann Rosanna Dana.

Or, in an equally ditzy way, pretend to be the friend/shopping buddy of the woman being mistreated, and in an oblivious way whisk that woman out of the children’s department and into the table linens.

“Sylvia!” said in the most nasal tone imaginable, “THERE you are.  You were supposed to meet me in the shoe department … you come with me right now before they’re out of the size 7s…”

Read the article.  Learn steps you can take to help folks who may really need your help.  Because it’s a Brave New World out there.  And it helps to be prepared.

Today of all days, it’s important to recall these words, from the U.S. Holocaust Museum:

The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.


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