Indifference to the issues endangers victims

Indifference to the issues endangers victims

Burger King recently released an anti-bullying campaign advertisement that compared a young boy being picked on by bullies with a burger that was “beaten” by employees. This social experiment showed that random customers were more inclined to return their beaten and smashed burgers than to call out actual bullying happening to a young boy right before their eyes. The video, circulating on social media, made me think about the repercussions of silence and the danger of being indifferent in times of strife. 

Bullying, sexual and physical assault, domestic violence, rape, hazing and ideologies like racism and homophobia are all things that come to mind when one brings up instances where intervention may be necessary. We know physical violence is not conducive to conflict resolution; we know rape is deplorable; we know hazing is unacceptable; we know bullying is repugnant; we know racism is vile. We know that the concept of doing these things is inherently wrong – until we see it before our eyes. 

When we witness any of these things, it’s our human nature to question the wrongness of the situation. Our immediate thought in such a situation is to doubt the importance of our actions when considering intervening. This is why – despite anti-hazing campaigns, despite knowing exactly what constitutes hazing, despite knowing the repercussions of hazing – we see incidents at Penn State and LSU among others where people die during unjustifiable rituals. 

So why do we time and time again justify these grave occurences with “it’s just playing around” or “it’s just sex” when we know that bullying or rape is intrinsically and morally wretched? We do not want to disturb the micro- and macro-status quo of social groups. If these stances go unnoticed in close knit micro social groups, it’ll be viewed as an allowable action within macro-social groups. 

If your friend claims “girls lie about rape,” call them out for it. If your friend uses racial or sexual slurs, call them out. Do not allow these actions to go unchecked, as your passivity is permission for this dangerous ideology. 

Let’s be clear: not speaking up for anything from rape, assault, hazing, bullying to racism or homophobia automatically makes you an accessory to a larger societal problem. If your all-male friend group objectifies women and you are indifferent, you are an accessory to rape and rape culture. If your fraternity brother hazes someone or even makes plans to haze someone in your presence, and you do nothing, you are an accessory to assault. If you are indifferent to your white friend using a racial slur in your all-white friend group, you are an accessory racism. When we see actions like these escape the confines of a small social setting, they becomes a cultural and societal epidemic. This is why rape and hazing have their own cultures and why racism is institutional. 

Who will speak out before someone dies in a UA fraternity house? Who will speak up before another girl gets viciously raped then dies by suicide? We need to be proactive in speaking out; we need to be controversial, yet firm, in our stances to our friends and neighbors if we want any change to occur. We can prevent these ideologies from being further entrenched in institutions if we start by ending it within our social circles. 

Silence is violence. Indifference is dangerous. You are responsible. 

Zach Boros is a sophomore majoring in psychology. His column runs biweekly.

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