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Complacency. Defined in the dictionary as, “an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction,”. Often times complacency is used to describe settling or not wanting to work for more; however, there is a far more dangerous side to complacency. In social situations, complacency or rather turning a blind eye can have larger consequences than we are aware of.


Due to the shifts in our political landscapes, our societal environment has also rapidly changed.  Whereas ill feelings towards groups of people used to be held in, individuals emboldened by these shifts are now saying what they feel. Take for example the rise in verbal harassment on public transportation or the countless aggressions towards minorities for simply living life. It’s at times like these that it is so dangerous to be complacent. “It’s dehumanizing when you allow yourself to just go along with something you don’t agree with,” said Leica Brooks, an outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. In most videos of verbal harassments, how many individuals step up and say something? One, two maybe. This is often due to the bystander effect. The Bystander Effect is when “the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation,”. Essentially, why should I interfere and report if there are so many other people who can or might? Studies find that due to this, often next to no one does anything. This is dangerous because by not interfering we are indirectly condoning the actions.


It’s not easy, it’s very uncomfortable, scary even, but interference needs to happen. Gone are the days when it was okay to write these incidents off as, “not my problem,” or, “if it’s not affecting me why should I care,”. Now, never engage an individual in what looks like a dangerous or escalating situation. The safety of everyone involved is of the utmost importance. So, what can you do? The Southern Poverty Law Center has a detailed list of how to respond to, “Everyday Bigotry,”. While a lengthy read, it is a great resource on how to respond to and diffuse harassment in all forms. Some ways to respond to varying situations of harassment are to:


  • Record and Report

According to the Vox article, “How to intervene when you see street harassment: an illustrated guide,” author Soo Oh explains the importance of recording the incident as evidence of the crime and to report to law officials. What about for those understandable wary about involving the police? In the article, Lecia Brooks adds that it can be helpful too, “call the police after the incident,” to avoid, “bringing the police to the scene,”. No matter what it is so important to report these incidents in order to have cold hard data on hand as many crimes have a history of going unreported.


  • The “fake friend” tactic


Say you’re on campus and a young woman in a hijab is being verbally harassed by an individual. The fake friend tactic encourages individuals to approach the victim of the crime and be their friend. Ignore the aggressor completely and ask her how her day’s going maybe talk about the weather or events happening nearby. Regardless of the topic, the point is to ignore the perpetrator and provide solidarity or a way for the recipient of the aggression a way out of the situation.  This tactic is also commonly seen in party’s or clubs when women act as friends to save another woman from creeps and further harassment. Oh points out that in the event the victim can perceive this as an additional threat, try distracting the aggressor by asking for detailed directions or something similar. In these situations, it’s important to assess. Is the aggressor a danger? Could they escalate to violence? Read the environment and proceed in the safest manner.


We live in a complicated era. With so much hate and violence being perpetrated from individuals on the street to those in positions of power, it is easy to get discouraged. Don’t let it get you down. There is so much good in the world and within you. As cliché as it is, love will always overcome hate. Remember, we all carry a piece of responsibility when we go out into the world. To fall victim to complacency is to fall victim to a cycle of hate in which individuals feel they have the right to instill fear in those they see as, “other”. It is on all of us to be a part of breaking this cycle. Step in, say something, report it. To break the cycle on a larger scale, vote! And not just on the national scale. Become aware of your local politics and elections and vote! Stand in solidarity with your fellow humans and together we can and will bring about change. Stay safe and stay informed.  






Vox-How to intervene when you see street harassment: an illustrated guide

Psychology Today-Bystander Effect

Univision News-Hate on the train: Racial aggressions increase on New York City subway, including towards Latinos

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Southern Poverty Law Center

Student at NMSU double majoring in Journalism and Government. 
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