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Bystander Intervention - using mindfulness in a racist incident

Would you know what to mindfully do if you witnessed a racist incident?

Maybe you would wonder what the 'right' thing is to do, or if it would be cowardly if you didn't confront the aggressor?

I was speaking with one of my certified mindfulness facilitators, who is a civil rights attorney in Chicago, and this sparked us to run a free public session called Bystander Intervention Training. We see how mindfulness really plays a key part in that moment you might be presented with a decision of what to do if you were witnessing a racism incident.

The feedback was so strongly positive that I decided it's worth sharing the key take-aways here.

Key perspectives

  • Even helping in an 'indirect' way can be very powerful.

  • Your own safety is a priority too.

  • There isn't a 'right' or 'one-size fits all' approach.

The 5Ds of bystander intervention

Here is a what you can do as a bystander.

DISTRACT - take an indirect approach to de-escalate the situation, like starting conversation with the target or finding another way to draw attention away from them.

DELEGATE - find someone in a position of authority - like a bus driver, flight attendant, security guard, teacher, etc and ask them for help.

DELAY - after the incident is over, check-in with the target.

DOCUMENT - video the incident, but always ask the target what they might want to do with this video. Do not post it online or use it without their permission.

DIRECT - talk to the person doing the harrassing to tell them this is inappropriate. You can also talk to the target and ask them if they are OK or if they want you to get help.

Please see this superb Bystander Intervention guide from to learn more.

Here's how mindfulness comes in

  • Pause momentarily so you don’t react in an auto-pilot way.

  • Take a breath to center yourself.

  • Notice what is happening around you and your own situation in the moment.

  • Make a conscious decision on what you will do.

  • Offering kindness to the target can go a long way.

I thank you for you reading this.

I hope it helps equip you so if you ever witness a racist incident or any other harassments, bullying or 'othering', you've got some options in the moment.

If you would like to explore how you feel about this topic of racism, I invite you to watch a replay of a meditation sitting I held called 'A Journey to your Purposeful Action'. This was a session from The Calm Monkey to help participants gain clarity on what might be their own personal, private & ethical purposeful action regarding anti-racism. It contains two meditations and people sharing their authentic thoughts on this subject.


~Wendy Quan, Founder, The Calm Monkey

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