The Missing Voices
On January 7th, 2009, ABC News aired a hidden-camera segment called What Would You Do? Confronting Racism. The two-day social experiment captured how bystanders respond when they witness disparaging remarks and discrimination against Latino day workers [portrayed by actors] who try to purchase coffee in a Linden, NJ, downtown deli. The deli employee [also portrayed by an actor] demeans the Spanish-speaking customers and refuses to serve them.
Of the eighty-eight customers who come into the store and witness the discrimination, nine people (10%) side with the employee and actively reinforce the discrimination. Thirty customers (34%) stand up and speak out on behalf of the Latino customers.
I feel great about the thirty courageous customers, but the question nags at me… What about the missing voices? What about the forty-nine people (56%) who didn't get involved at all. How many of these silent bystanders wanted to speak up, but did not? They may not realize that their silence sends a message of collusion. As Daniel Goleman states in his book Emotional Intelligence, “The simple act of naming a bias or objecting to it on the spot establishes a social atmosphere that discourages it: saying nothing serves to condone it.”
So, what would YOU do? I say “Go ahead, speak up, because your voice makes a difference. Just one person taking action can inspire others to do the same.”
Click to view the ABC News story What Would You Do? Confronting Racism (Parts 1 & 2).
Submitted by: Cheryl McConnaughey, The Online Store
I just had a customer in from a local shop… she was bringing me things to sell for them on eBay. She said, "Those Mexicans come in and ask to see the expensive things we keep behind the counter, like jewelry, and just walk away with it when we get distracted."
My response was, "Well, anyone could do that, right?" And she actually said, "Yes, you're right."
Normally I wouldn't have said anything… but your video reminded me that I can, even when it involves paying customers!
Leslie’s comments: Thanks, Cheryl, for sharing your story. This is one of the six techniques from Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts and it's called “Broaden to Universal Human Behavior.” Your example shows how we can interrupt stereotypical thinking in gentle, helpful ways.