And Another Form of Dialogue

I was surprised by the fact that no one brought up the term “bystander behavior” during our last class. We concluded that we need to focus on the understanding as part of the process; how social justice isn’t just about action. But, during our discussion, we were pretty focused on talking about how to take action and when to take action. Hilary shared her story about the boy on the bus, and then many us shared other stories about a time we did step in (and how), didn’t know how to step in, or didn’t want to step in.

The show What Would You Do, hosted by John Quiñones, is something that always comes to mind. He fabricates very socially interesting situations with actors in order to see how ordinary people in society will react. I do not watch the show with much frequency, but I am familiar with it, and have heard Quiñones speak. I searched through some of the clips on YouTube to find one that I thought was worth sharing with everyone. I did not want to find one where someone had to intervene as a result of a physical abuse or one where a child was the target; rather, I was looking for a clip that involved verbal injustice. Here’s my pick:

How do we use what we know about social justice and what we are learning to be the kind of humans on this earth who take a risk and assist others? In this particular clip, I do appreciate how both men and women–gay and straight, old and young–intervened to say something to the hairdresser.

Although the first woman in the clip had a very aggressive approach, calling the hairdresser “stupid” and calling her a “bird,” I found her moment critical to the conversation. When we hear/see ignorance, we need to find the courage to call people out on it. This practice is not solely for strangers; rather, we should be able to do it in class and with each other on a daily basis. The woman at the end of the clip had a more gentle demeanor, resulting in a more real conversation to inspire and elevate the hairdresser. She talks about rising together, to be bigger and better than past generations. She tells Quiñones, “Sometimes you have to step up so that you don’t fall back.”

I do think that this show creates situations for people to engage in dialogue. Quiñones is a facilitator in his own right. He uses these moments to give people the opportunity to be champions, as well as to give viewers (of the show) the opportunity to examine how we can be champions. The show obviously only shows what it wants to show. There may have been more people who stepped in to speak to the hairdresser, but we will never know that.

I also like that Quiñones interviews the bystanders at the end to ask why they chose not to do/say anything. Most of the time, as we heard, people want to do/say something, but they find that it is not their place to do so. Why? Where do these barriers come from that stop so many of us from action? Your response or action towards a moment of social injustice would be based on your experience. But that almost means that bystander behavior is fueled by culture/experience. My parents never taught me or modeled for me what it is like to take action. That’s not to say that they didn’t teach me the Golden Rule or how to treat people. But what I know from my Greek culture and from my experience with bystander behavior certainly influences what I would do in a situation like that.

During class this week, we posed the question: Who gets to decide what good dialogue is? I think that between this post and my last one, it is starting to become clearer (to me) that dialogue can present itself in many different ways. The title of my blog is Higher Dialogue. Of course, I have the play-on words. Higher as in higher education. But “higher” can also reflect the higher standards and higher level of thinking that I am working on. Dialogue is something that happens between two people. The platform for which that happens on does not necessarily have to be talking face-to-face. I think that dialogue can come through writing, videos, photos, and other media.

As a creative writer, I took a course about remixing and unwriting. How can we alter the presentation of a piece of work so that it presents a different story or idea? Writing does not have to be written with words, paragraphs, and proper grammar to be considered writing. And the way in which we choose to share our work plays a major role in the way that people interpret it. For instance, if Quiñones transcribed that episode and you had to read it, rather than view it, then you would probably have no sense of the atmosphere that was created in the barber shop. A transcription would not necessarily tell you that the people who stood up to the hairdresser were people of color. But would that even matter? Does the video hurt our understanding of this situation when we realized that everyone who spoke up to the hair dresser is of color? or does it enhance our understanding?

If we are to facilitate discussions with each other and the students we will eventually work with, then it is imperative that we consider the way in which we choose to present that dialogue. We live both in possibility and in choice. We must consider how powerful that is and how we can channel such power to help us through our journey as M.Ed. candidates in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago.


References

WWYD? All episodes. (2014, January 20). Ep:49 WWYD? What Would You Do- Interracial Couple Faces Criticism [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9WLbPC9vDrM

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