Chatting with a good friend today, we were talking about whether or not we would act if witnessing unwelcome behaviour in a public place. It’s impossible to know for sure until one is faced with such a situation, I believe. Nonetheless, it’s important to consider what one would do, and why. What would be a good outcome, and what behaviours will likely lead to those outcomes.
Thinking about a racist encounter on public transport – which sadly there is a very real chance of happening – we agreed that meeting invective with violence isn’t the best answer. If a physical assault is taking place then, of course, a forceful intervention may be appropriate. Being forceful doesn’t mean meeting violence with greater violence; restraint (in the literal and figurative sense) could be the bridge to greater understanding and improved life chances. ‘Hearts and minds’ campaigns need not be toothless, but ‘shock and awe’ does seem to be reckless. History is a good judge.
In my view, our aim must always be to improve society as a whole.