The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo has a new secondary question that may be difficult to respond to in a written form.
Please explain how you would respond to a fellow student who muttered a racist or homophobic slur under their breath in the presence of other students.
I think a good place to start is to actually put the question into Google and peruse some of the page hits on microaggression and microinterventions.
Then Break It Down
First: “response.” We have internal responses to things that are wrong and make us uncomfortable, and we have external responses: action or reaction. It’s good to talk about both.
Second: “racist or homophobic.” You may be of a race that is often targeted, or of a gender orientation that is targeted, one or the other or both. It’s useful to say that when you are the target, the response is amplified in particular ways.
Third: “under their breath” and “other students.” You want to describe how you deal with your own visceral (body) response to this kind of comment. For example, you may stiffen physically and retract psychologically, you may look knowingly at “the other students,” who may feel that they are or may actually be targets for reasons of race or gender orientation themselves. You may use breathing to find equanimity, and assume a certain affable manner, or make kind eye contact with the slur-maker, or ask a question, or ask them to step away from the group with you. Think of how you physically handle the interaction from start to finish.
Fourth: The context for your intervention is so important. What you say and how you say it depends on the setting you are in and it is useful to conjure up a few different ones that might cause you to respond verbally differently.
Fifth: Show your humility by admitting it would be easy to just resist any response and wait for yourself to get over it.