Handout: Being An Active Bystander

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Thank you for your commitment to challenging explicit and implicit biases in your professional role and day-to-day life.  It can be difficult to know what to say when a family member, friend, colleague, or acquaintance makes problematic comments.

However, we will only be able to dismantle racism in its overt forms if we are brave enough to challenge racism in even its most common forms.  The Kirwan Institute invites you to utilize these strategies in order to empower yourself to speak out in response to biased comments.  In the words of Audre Lorde, “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

This handout contains actionable strategies and model language for how to speak up when bias emerges in everyday conversation.  Please utilize this handout as an educational resource for yourself and others!


Have you ever been in a conversation when someone said something biased that made you uncomfortable, but you weren’t sure how to respond?  Most of us struggle to address these all too common situations, whether in the classroom, the workplace, spending time with friends, or enjoying time with family.  Even though we want to do what’s right and stand up for equality, we don’t always know how to take action in that awkward moment—especially if we aren’t sure whether the person making the comment actually meant to cause harm.

As individuals dedicated to dismantling systemic oppression, we must be empowered to take action in these moments when bias manifests so that we can create a welcoming, inclusive, and affirming environment for all people.  This website will serve as a hub for resources related to being an active bystander in those all too common, “wait…did they really just say that?!” moments when bias emerges.  These educational resources will illustrate the importance of committing to being an active bystander in moments when bias emerges through microaggressions, as well as providing actionable skills to do so.  These skills are tailored to create educational conversations in response to biased comments/actions, rather than eliciting a defensive reaction from the person who has (perhaps unintentionally) caused harm.

Visitors to this site will thus learn how to effectively communicate in challenging situations through the employment of strategies that can be tailored to the particular situation at hand.