Passive Bystander Or Active Advocate, You Have A Choice

Passive Bystander Or Active Advocate, You Have A Choice

What will you choose?


I wrote this one year ago. A year later, I encountered the same group of people that brought hate to my campus before. As I process the experiences I had today, I'd like to reflect on last year's events.

It's easy to simply be a bystander, watching on and choosing not to intervene. It's safer, less stressful, but it doesn't drive change. Standing still doesn't push the movement forward. Staying quiet doesn't let them know what they're saying is self-righteous bigotry. Looking away only prevents you from being unable to look me in the eye when you're questioned about your passivity. Stepping in and speaking up can be terrifying but it's necessary; without people on the front lines, what matters most to us fades quietly into the distance.

If you're familiar with the bystander effect, you know that it is a psychological phenomenon that explains people's unwillingness to step in in certain situations. I witnessed the bystander effect yesterday. I watched hundreds of students stand still or just walk by as a group of middle-aged men told LGBTQ+ people that they were "going to hell" and that women were only meant for "submission and quietness." These men had traveled an hour to my college campus to preach what they called "God's truth." I was on my way to class and followed the sound of yelling to the middle of campus.

On the steps of the education building, there was a balding man yelling at a group of students opposite him, Bible in hand and voice booming. At one point, a brave group of students stood in front of the man and blocked his view every step he took. I'll admit, fear overtook me for a moment and I considered just getting to class early as I had planned. As I watched this man yell horribly homophobic things to my peers, I knew that wasn't an option. I joined the protest for as long as I could, chanting and making my presence known before I had to get to class.

Clearly, homophobia does not rest because these men were still on campus an hour later when I walked out of class. There were more protesters and the men had scattered to opposite sides of the building with their signs, each surrounded by protesters. I joined the group, this time with more anger and the intense desire to let these people know that we weren't going to accept any of what they were spouting off as our reality. With people like this, there is no room for reasoning. When there are people who firmly believe that your existence is "evil" or a "sin," there is no rational thought possible that will persuade them to think differently. Our best course of action was simply to be loud and advocate that our space had no room for bigotry.

Admittedly, I did not respond with the "love not hate" attitude that people so often encourage in the face of sheer ignorance and hostility. When dealing with these kinds of people, I do not find it to be as effective. I believe in love, I spread love but standing there in front of those people, I just wanted my voice to drown out the nonsense they were spewing. I shouted about how their "message" was untruthful, how it was rooted in hate. I yelled at them to leave, to throw their homophobic and sexist signs in the trash where they belonged. We, as a group, chanted that "Gay is OK" and waved every pride flag as high as we could. And for a moment, I felt safe with this group of people that I didn't know personally; the fact they were there told me everything I needed to know about them.

Reflecting on this now, I realize how unfair this entire situation was. A group of grown men invaded the space of thousands of college students and proceeded to harass them. College age students shouldn't have to deal with such a great amount of hate in a place where they're meant to feel safe. Despite this, I applaud the resilience of the community and their ability to make the situation a little lighter. It felt odd in the midst of such chaos but there were numerous times that I found myself laughing when fellow protesters made jokes out of these men. There was a person that sat on the steps next to where one of the men was "preaching" with a sign that said simply, "You are loved." Another person stood next to the building with a sign advertising free hugs with a plethora of rainbows decorating it. And as we finally got these bigots to leave, a transgender student got up on those same steps and thanked everyone for fighting for acceptance, a pride flag tied around them like a cape.

That brave soul didn't choose to be a bystander. I didn't choose to be a bystander. Hundreds of others didn't choose to be bystanders. And as I think about this, one thing continues to resonate with me. At one point, I overheard a police officer tell a student that if we would just "leave them alone and not give them the public outrage they want, it'd be fine."

Almost instinctively, I immediately responded. I told him that just letting this happen without any consequence wouldn't solve anything and it would only let these men continue thinking that their bigotry would be accepted. I told him that this fight is much bigger than what was happening at the moment. He only offered me a small shrug. It may not have meant much to him but it's the only message I am trying to get across. Passivity may be the safer option, the quieter option, the less disruptive option but it's not the only one. You have a choice.

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8 Struggles Of Being 21 And Looking 12

The struggle is real, my friends.

“You'll appreciate it when you're older." Do you know how many times my mom has told me this? Too many to count. Every time I complain about looking young that is the response I get. I know she's right, I will love looking young when I'm in my 40s. However, looking young is a real struggle in your 20s. Here's what we have to deal with:

1. Everyone thinks your younger sister or brother is the older one.

True story: someone actually thought my younger sister was my mom once. I've really gotten used to this but it still sucks.

2. You ALWAYS get carded.

Every. Single. Time. Since I know I look young, I never even bothered with a fake ID my first couple of years of college because I knew it would never work. If I'm being completely honest, I was nervous when I turned 21 that the bartender would think my real driver's license was a fake.

3. People look at your driver's license for an awkward amount of time.

So no one has actually thought my real driver's license is fake but that doesn't stop them from doing a double take and giving me *that look.* The look that says, “Wow, you don't look that old." And sometimes people will just flat out say that. The best part is this doesn't just happen when you're purchasing alcohol. This has happened to me at the movie theater.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things People Who Look 12 Hate Hearing

4. People will give you *that look* when they see you drinking alcohol.

You just want to turn around and scream “I'M 21, IT'S LEGAL. STOP JUDGING ME."

5. People are shocked to find out you're in college.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had a shocked expression on their face after I told them I'm a junior in college I could pay off all of my student loan debt. It's funny because when random people ask me how school is going, I pretty much assume they think I'm in high school and the shocked look on their face when I start to talk about my college classes confirms I'm right.

6. For some reason wearing your hair in a ponytail makes you look younger.

I don't understand this one but it's true. Especially if I don't have any makeup on I could honestly pass for a child.

7. Meeting an actual 12-year-old who looks older than you.

We all know one. That random 12-year-old who looks extremely mature for her age and you get angry because life isn't fair.

8. Being handed a kids' menu.

This is my personal favorite. It happens more often than it should. The best part of this is it's your turn to give someone a look. The look that says, "You've got to be kidding me".

Looking young is a real struggle and I don't think everyone realizes it. However, with all the struggles that come with looking young, we still take advantage of it. Have you ever gone to a museum or event where if you're under a certain age you get in for a discounted price? Yeah? Well, that's when I bet you wish you were us. And kids' meals are way cheaper than regular meals so there have definitely been a couple times when I've kept that kids' menu.

So, all in all, it's not the worst thing in the world but it's definitely a struggle.

Cover Image Credit: Jenna Collins

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How Growing Up In A Culturally Diverse Environment Changed Me

We are all human.


I can proudly say that I am from Montgomery County, Maryland, more specifically from the city of Gaithersburg. According to a 2018 study by WalletHub, three of the top 10 culturally diverse cities in the United States are located in Montgomery County. Those cities include Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Silver Spring.

I have lived in Montgomery County ever since the day I was born. Growing up in such a culturally and economically diverse area has educated me with the value of accepting differences. Since I was exposed to an assortment of cultures at such a young age, I hardly ever noticed differences among my peers and I. The everyday exposure to various cultures taught me to embrace diversity and look beyond appearances such as the color of someone's skin. I was able to open my eyes to other ideas, lifestyles, and backgrounds.

Ever since I was a child, I was not only taught to welcome different cultures and ethnic groups, but I was always surrounded by them. From my elementary to high school years, every classroom was filled with racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Coming from someone apart of the Caucasian race, I was often the minority in school. Not everyone is as fortunate to experience such a multicultural society.

Since being from Montgomery County, I have grown up as a person with an open mind and strong values. Diversity has not only taught me to be more mindful but has also helped me become more of a respectful person. Learning about other cultures and backgrounds is essential to help societies strive, but experiencing it firsthand is something that no one can teach you.

After being in countless culturally diverse situations, I have been provided with many lifelong advantages. I was taught to be inclusive, fair, and understanding. I am able to be comfortable and accepting of all cultures and religions. After growing up in such a culturally diverse environment, I now develop culture shock when I'm not surrounded by diversity.

Our world is filled with numerous different kinds of cultures, ethnic groups, and religions. Being raised in a diverse environment has prepared me for what the real world looks like and taught me exactly what equality means. As I was growing up, I was always taught to be nonjudgemental of others and to embrace all individuals for who they are.

Diversity molds our identities. Every individual is unique, but each of us shares at least one trait — we are all human. Who would rather experience a homogeneous society, when they could constantly be learning about other cultures and building diverse relationships? When growing up, I never realized how impacted and truly thankful I would be to of had the opportunities to experience diversity each day. So here is a long overdue thank you to my parents for choosing to raise me in such an incredibly diverse place all of my life.

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