- Sharon's Anti-Racism Newsletter
- Some Step In, Some Step Out
Some Step In, Some Step Out
Reflecting on the behaviour of white colleagues and neighbours
I may have talked about this before in other places, but I’ve been reflecting on how colleagues - and neighbours - I’ve known have behaved faced with the presence of Black people - or this Black woman - in their circles. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are those who step in to racist behaviour and those who step out.
Stepping out looks like coming back home after an afternoon study session (I was doing my MA at the time) to realise that all the neighbours in my close were invited to a barbecue at the house next door. I can’t remember why I needed to contact the neighbour - maybe a package left at my house or something? - but I did. And she looked pretty sheepish as the noise of the festivities seeped out.
Stepping in looks like a friend’s neighbours who were warned off moving in next to a (said in hushed tones) Black family, and not only moved in, but told the family in question and reported the bigotry to the estate agents’ head office.
Stepping out looks like failing to mention there’s an after-work get-together and then looking discomfited when it later comes out in conversation that everyone but the Black team member knew about it.
Stepping in looks like making sure the Black team member is included in any work-related gatherings AND any messages about those gatherings.
Stepping out looks like spotting your Black colleague, and deliberately trying to avoid her by crossing the road or darting into a shop rather than saying hello.
Stepping in looks like seeing your Black colleague out and inviting her to join you for a cup of coffee or a chat.
Stepping out looks like white colleagues pretending they don’t know you at all when they see you outside of work.
Stepping in looks like white colleagues greeting you like someone they know when they see you outside of work.
Stepping out looks like white colleagues seeing Global Majority colleagues experiencing racism, and whispering to them afterwards about how wrong it was, with appropriate hand-wringing.
Stepping in looks like interrupting racism in the moment, and letting other white colleagues know it’s not ok with you AND letting Global Majority colleagues know you stand with them.
These are just a few examples and yes, most of these have happened to me personally.
They can be hard to spot because many of them are based on a lack of action, but the Black and Global Majority people on the receiving end of this treatment feel it deeply, cutting as deeply as other microaggressions.
What other examples of stepping out or stepping in have you seen? How will you challenge racism like this the next time you see it?
Thanks for reading,
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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.