Hate Crimes Are On The Rise—But Helping Is Too

To overcome a recent increase in post-election harassment, workplaces and college campuses are developing tools and practices for defusing tense situations

Image of an anonymous teen charged with bullying by Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

The day after the 2016 election, Baylor University sophomore Natasha Nkhama was walking to her 10 a.m. class in Waco, Texas, when another student shoved her. “No n-----s allowed on the sidewalk,” the stranger allegedly said, contributing to a recent uptick in violent acts of bigotry.

A November report from the FBI found that in 2015, hate crimes against Muslims in America had reached 9/11-era levels, increasing by 67 percent. Hate crimes overall went up 7 percent. Meanwhile, in 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 1,000 hate-related incidents in the month after the election alone.

Nkhama was ready to chalk up the incident to Trump-related intolerance when a bystander—another student—intervened, saying to the aggressor, "Dude, what are you doing? That's not cool." Two days later, more than 300 people from within the Baylor community lined up to walk Nkhama to class.

Their message was clear: Racism isn’t tolerated here. It’s a message that’s becoming formalized at institutions—from governments and workplaces to college campus—across the country.

“What we're trying to do is create a norm where people help,” says Leslie Fasone, assistant dean for women and gender affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. Fasone oversees one of a growing number of bystander intervention programs present on college campuses. The program began roughly six years ago when the campus was dealing with a number of serious student injuries and, even, deaths. At the time, Fasone says a common theme “was that somebody could have potentially intervened,” but chose instead to mind his or her own business.

Standing by in moments of conflict isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s classic behavior associated with the “bystander effect”—a phenomenon studied by psychologists as early as the 1960s— in which witnesses don’t help, either because they assume someone else will take care of it or because they’re afraid that intervening is dangerous. The most famous instance of the bystander effect was during the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, supposedly seen by 37 neighbors who did nothing to intervene. (It has since been revealed to be a myth.) Yet the effect has been proven to be very real.

But experts are finding ways to overcome the fearful motivations of potential bystanders. Programs like Green Dot and Step UP! help future witnesses internalize personal responsibility on their decisions to help or not to help by offering tools and best practices for intervening safely. Overcoming harassment doesn’t have to be hard, says Fasone. “Bystanders don't always have to be direct and address the person that's being discriminatory or harassing somebody.

For example, Fasone describes one effective method captured in the now-ubiquitous intervention guide created by Maeril, a French illustrator of Middle Eastern descent, for defusing Islamophobic harassment by employing a technique known as “noncomplimentary behavior.” Essentially, witnesses ignore the harasser, instead focusing on personally connecting with the victim to mollify a potentially violent situation. Charles Sonder (aka Snackman) took this approach in 2012, earning social media fame after breaking up a fight in the New York City subway by standing between the two combatants and quietly eating a stack of cheddar-flavored potato chips.

Quantifying and tracking bystander intervention may not be as clear-cut as it is for hate crimes. Yet, a number of reports in recent months have been heartening. In June, after a man boarded the New York City subway and started screaming insults at two Muslim women wearing hijabs, a group of subway riders shut him down. When a girl was sexually assaulted on a bus this past October, actor/activist Moise Morancy put a stop to it by forcefully telling the assailant to stop.

Recent studies in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and the European Journal of Social Psychology show that when bystanders choose not to let “uncivil behavior” go unchecked—instead breaking the pattern and taking action—the more likely witnesses are to intervene in the future. In other words, the more we help, the more we create an expectation that helping is acceptable.

It’s a guideline for behavior that was perhaps best summed up by Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’"

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet