Section: DA Question Box

DA Question Box: Facing Insensitivity

Question: How should you respond to insensitive acts? How do you cope when someone targets your culture, gender or religion?

Insensitive acts can be jarring — don’t beat yourself up if you’re not sure how to respond when you see one. Each situation has its own circumstances, so there is no perfect, universal protocol. But here’s a rule of thumb: When in doubt, act.

When you see a friend slip up, speak up! Everybody makes mistakes — I sometimes have moments where I’m unaware that something I’m doing is offensive, and I appreciate my friends calling me out so I don’t look like an insensitive jerk.

When it comes to strangers and acquaintances, though (for example, some white student in a sombrero at an Old Kenyon party), you must assess the situation differently. Do you feel safe saying something? If so, act. If you see that someone is upset , take a moment to make sure they are alright and ask if they want help confronting it. Show them respect by allowing them to speak and supporting them as they do so. In this situation, the feelings of the distressed matter most.

Remember: your discomfort with calling someone out is much less than that of someone whose culture, gender, religion or other identity is being targeted. There is one rule: Never be passive.

Rita Carmona ’19  is an anthropology and modern languages and literature major from Lincolnwood, Ill. You can contact her at


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