Illustrating the Silent Bystander in social bullying

ABC’s What Would You Do? has posed another hot button question…

Will any witnesses intervene when a family is ‘refused service’ simply because the parents are gay?

The announcer highlights the following fact at the beginning of the segment:  “In over half of the states in the United States a restaurant can refuse to serve someone because of their sexual orientation.”  I suppose they chose to highlight restaurants for the obvious reason but really you could add to that legal discrimination and the denial of housing, jobs and health care in all of those states for the same reason.

So anyhow back to the ‘set up,’  what happened when the hidden cameras and actors set the stage in a middle class diner for the ABC segment?  Well in this little experiment 88 couples watched, laughed, or did nothing as the couple and their children were taunted, shamed and thrown out of the restaurant because the mothers were… well mothers. 

However, 12 couples spoke up to the anti-gay harassment at the table next to them.  Part two below shows a father and son who spoke up and protested loudly.  These men were very clear about what silent bystanding had resulted in for their family during WWII.   While all looked relieved when the camera people showed up, I suspect all of those duped by this scene walked away with an uneasy feeling about one another.

Of course this isn’t empirical research and one could argue all kinds of things about the motives of a commercial television program making entertainment and profit out of social controversy, none the less the scenes do reflect what we know about LGBTQ bullying in schools.  The vast majority of students report both teachers and peers do not intervene when homophobic, sexist, or gendered remarks are being directed at someone in school.   What do they do?  Watch, laugh, participate, or occasionally walk away.

In an earlier post I thought the ABC segment on teen vandalism and racism might be useful in talking about teachers, students, and families perceptions of race and crime.  Here too, a hidden camera documenting reactions to overt homophobia and ‘bullying’ could lead to some excellent conversations about how different people respond to discrimination, harassment, and bullying as witnesses when it is not directed at them.

And finally a FYI, the organization COLAGE Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere is featured in this episode and their home page describes COLAGE this way:

COLAGE was created for people just like you! In the United States alone, more than 10 million people have one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer parent(s). Today, COLAGE is the only national organization in the world specifically supporting children, youth and adults with LGBTQ parent(s). Using our experiences and creativity, COLAGE offers a diverse array of community building opportunities, education, leadership development and advocacy by and for folks with LGBTQ parents.

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One response to “Illustrating the Silent Bystander in social bullying

  1. Pingback: 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ | Schooling Inequality