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Bus racist caused 'bystander effect': expert

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Woman stands up to racist bus passenger

Brisbane bus commuter Kylie Reid says she did the right thing in defending an Indian woman against an abusive passenger but is "disgusted" that "no one else stood up".

PT0M0S 620 349

A Brisbane bullying specialist is not surprised passengers on a bus refrained from standing up to a racist bully.

But QUT psychologist Marilyn Campbell said the example of Windsor woman Kylie Reid could inspire others to act differently in the future.

Ms Reid challenged a man who racially abused a female passenger on her Tuesday afternoon commute home.

Kylie Reid stood up to a foul mouthed racist on a Brisbane bus but says she was let down by other passengers who failed to speak up.

Kylie Reid stood up to a foul mouthed racist on a Brisbane bus but says she was let down by other passengers who failed to speak up. Photo: Natalie Bochenski

She received a tirade of invective from the man, but was more disappointed that only one fellow passenger vocally agreed with her that his behaviour was inappropriate.

“It is unusual for her to have the courage to do that, and it’s very disappointing that other people didn’t stand up as well,” Professor Campbell said.

She said the incident involved classic traits of the “bystander effect”, when people choose to not involve themselves in confrontation.

“They think that the person who is harassing or bullying the victim will turn on them, and they will be hurt,” she said.

“But also, people will get too embarrassed to do what is right.”

She said the more witnesses to an event, the easier it was to do nothing, creating a “diffusion of responsibility”.

“If there are a lot of people watching something bad happening, they don’t have to do anything about it, because it’s not just them [on the scene].”

However, Professor Campbell said just as safety in numbers was the reason people didn’t do anything, a group response was the best way to show a bully their actions were wrong.

“The man who was abusing would then get the message that he was the outcast, that that kind of behaviour was not acceptable to most people on the bus.”

She said people should always consider any risk to their own safety, but would be more confident of standing up in low-risk situations if it was a cultural norm.

“If there is somebody who gets on the bus who is incapacitated, or a woman carrying a baby, it’s a cultural norm for us to stand up and offer our seat,” she said.

“Everybody’s got to think ‘if I were on the bus, what would I do?’”.

Professor Campbell said by simply affirming to themselves that they would act, a person puts themselves in a more likely position to challenge a verbal bully.

“Especially if somebody else did it, you would be able to say ‘I agree’,” she said.

Ms Reid said she was grateful for the support she’d received since talking about the bus incident.

“The response that it’s been getting has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s really helped confirm my belief that I stood up for something ... that was the right thing to do.”

She was grateful for the support she had received since talking about the incident.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk praised Ms Reid for her actions.

“Full marks to her, she’s taken a stand in relation to another passenger who was loud and abusive,” he told Fairfax Radio 4BC.

32 comments so far

  • Wow, we need a 'bullying' expert to tell us this? While Ms Reid is to be commended there's no telling if the guy in question could have been on drugs, alcohol or mentally unhinged.

    Also people were probably reluctant to engage because this person had kids with them. The real story is the bus driver not reporting the incident and holding Ms Reid equally responsible for starting a commotion. Then again the bus driver must see these incidents all the time, it's hardly the sort of thing police are gonna charge someone over if they don't witness it first hand. For chrissake the Aussie cricketers were being called out for racial sledging only a few years back.

    Commenter
    Frank
    Date and time
    January 24, 2014, 7:00AM
    • Racism is a form of bullying.

      Commenter
      Amy
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 24, 2014, 7:06AM
      • Racism is a form of low intellect, bullying is a side effect.

        Commenter
        JC
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 9:58AM
      • Racism is a mental illness and the people who suffer from it need help to get better.

        Commenter
        was public now private
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 10:53AM
    • People don't want to get involved because this country, like America, takes you to court if you open your mouth. Litigation has taking over and people are afraid.

      Commenter
      Dieter
      Location
      Varsity Lakes
      Date and time
      January 24, 2014, 7:54AM
      • No Dieter. That's not why. No one is sitting there thinking "I better not say anything or I could get sued".

        And the notion that Australia is just as litigious, or becoming just as litigious, as America, is a fallacy.

        I can say yes I would have spoken out because I have done so before against a tirade on an old Asian lady. Luckily in that situation once I piped up a few other guys aruond me also did.

        Commenter
        Andrew
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 8:46AM
      • No they were afraid of the stupid bigoted bully, it was he that ran the most risk of being sued under human rights laws.

        Commenter
        cycloniq
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 9:11AM
      • No mate, you would look far and wide to find a police officer that would write down that you intervened to save another human from assault, let alone charged you, let alone made you go to court, let alone have a court find you guilty.

        Commenter
        JC
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 9:43AM
    • I don't condone racism, but in this case I actually think it is more a case of mental illness, drugs or alcohol rather than racism. It appears in this case he was swearing and yelling at other people too (the lady that called his attention and the lady accompanying him) - we've all seen them on the bus or train at times (especially Friday nights) and it is best to ignore as their behaviour could be unpredictable and violent. I've been on the bus and picked on before by someone not in their right mind (nothing personal) thankfully all passengers ignored until guy got off bus - best way to handle - ignore - not to inflame. This mightn't be the case here, but it certainly sounds like it could be. I don't think this girl acted appropriately, I think she was more interested in being right and stirring controversy than an act of bravery.... but I wasn't there so could be wrong. I'll also reiterate, I do not condone racism.

      Commenter
      Molly
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 24, 2014, 7:54AM
      • "‎Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." - John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address: Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st 1867

        Commenter
        William Bonney
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 10:58AM

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