An advertising campaign that aims to curb harassment and hate by focusing on bystander intervention is airing around the country, created in response to a wave of anti-Asian hate incidents in recent years.
The 25-second spot, which Comcast is screening to 16.5 million subscribers in 6,000-plus communities nationwide, highlights five approaches that individuals can use in everyday situations involving harassment or hate.
Those methods — the “five D’s of bystander intervention” — are individually featured in a separate series of animated videos that illustrate appropriate ways to intervene either during or after the event.
“People think it’s about strapping on superhero spandex and saving the day, but what this campaign shows is that it’s about taking simple actions,” said Emily May, president of Right To Be, an anti-hate organization whose bystander-focused training inspired the series. “People think, ‘I can do that.’ There is a way we can change this. It’s just going to take all of us.”
The animated videos take place in everyday situations – in the workplace, in parks or on public transit – and depict individuals being accosted by others. Bystanders are faced with a universal question: What should I do?
“The five D’s encourage people to prioritize showing care for the person facing the harassment rather than the person causing the harassment,” said Marita Etcubañez, senior director of strategic initiatives for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, an Asian-American-focused civil rights organization. “We often hear from people that it’s not the harassment that causes the hurt but the inaction of people standing around.”
Stop AAPI Hate, a San Francisco-based organization formed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to combat and gather data about anti-Asian hate, has tallied more than 11,000 reports of such incidents since it began tracking such data in March 2020.
What are the five D’s of bystander intervention?
The five D’s were developed by Right To Be, an organization based in New York City, to offer bystanders methods they could employ to intervene during or after incidents of harassment or hate: Direct, deflect, delegate, document or delay.
“We see instances of everyday harassment ranging from microaggressions to workplace discrimination to verbal attacks, and we often don’t know how to respond,” May said. The methods, she said, “were developed to address that moment of confusion” and help bystanders know how to navigate the situation.
Only one involves engaging the harasser directly, firmly and without argument. Most are more indirect – for instance, finding others who can step in, documenting the incident with cell phone video or simply commiserating with the harassed person afterward.
How did the campaign evolve?
Right To Be had found that its bystander-intervention training had proved effective in multiple situations, so as incidents of hate and harassment targeting Asian Americans across the country began to rise, the organization reached out to Advancing Justice-AAJC about the possibility of taking it to a wider audience.
“People were angry,” May said. “But they wanted to know what they could do to stop the hate other than just not being hateful.”
With assistance from AARP, the organizations developed a virtual training series by spring 2020; more than 100,000 people had taken the one-hour course by the following summer. Eventually, the group was approached by NBC/MSNBC journalist Richard Lui, who suggested turning it as a series of short, animated videos that could serve as a course introduction.
Animation offered several advantages: Videos could be offered in multiple languages and allowed for a lighter approach to a grave subject. For instance, the approximately 80-second ads depict bystanders who witness harassment and then imagine themselves dispatching perpetrators with superhuman strength or facing off with them in high-noon-style showdowns before returning to reality; instead, they take simple actions to defuse the situation or help assure the person being harassed.
Can advertising combat hate?
Genny Hom-Franzen, executive director of the Asian American Advertising Federation, a national trade organization based in Los Angeles, called the campaign’s approach both practical and easy to remember and praised creators for an inclusive approach featuring people of varying ethnicities and backgrounds.
“It will likely resonate with more people, providing another opportunity for much greater impact,” Hom-Franzen said. “While this campaign won’t and can’t stop all incidents of violence, it can definitely make a difference.”
Etcubañez agreed, saying the campaign is just one approach among many to combat hate.
“It’s not just the responsibility of individuals to take on a systematic harm like racism,” she said, citing education, policy advocacy and efforts such as ensuring accessibility to mental health services or public safety as important too. “But the one tactic people can use in almost every situation is to interact once the moment has passed. Asking – ‘Are you OK?’ is a form of intervention that can convey that you saw what happened and you know it’s not okay. That’s one you can keep in your back pocket.”
May said the methods offer a means for people eager to do something to address the problem.
“People recognize that words do hurt and that they also create a gateway for more extreme forms of hate,” she said. “Bystander intervention really meets that societal need. It’s something all of us can do.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com