Interrupting Racism & Bias

As the great Grace Lee Boggs taught us, “The Only Way to Survive Is by Taking Care of One Another.”

The COVID19 health crisis is stretching an already under-resourced social safety net and revealing bias and racism, especially against Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander people. We wanted to share resources specifically for artists and cultural workers who feel they have been targeted, resources for marginalized populations that are feeling strained and under-supported, as well as ways that people with privilege can upstand/bystand/intervene when they see or experience a bias incident.

This list of resources come from Ann Marie Lonsdale, Sara Carminati, nikhil trivedi,  and others. If you have any additions or questions, please use the form to submit them!

Racist targeting: 

  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice has asked people to report hate incidents and racist actions relating to the Coronavirus outbreak at
  • The ACLU also has resources for people who have experienced discrimination based on race, national origin, and disability status.
  • Make The Road NYC is also an important resource for immigrants and other working class folks who have experienced discrimination and bias.

Disability rights:
It’s important to restate as widely as possible this reminder from the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies: Government entities have a legal obligation to provide equal access to public health emergency services to people with disabilities, including throughout a pandemic, if declared, under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Equal access includes ensuring continuity of operations for disability services before, during, and after public health emergencies.

Bystander/upstander allyship to disarm racist, ableist, or ageist microaggressions:
What are microaggressions? These are moments of interpersonal interaction where racism and bias show up. Microaggressions seem to appear in three forms: microassault, microinsult, and microinvalidation. Learn in this article from Vox.

From Intervention Strategies: Instantly stop or deflect the microaggression, force the perpetrator to immediately consider what they have just said. State “I don’t agree with what you said,” “That’s not how I view it,” or ask questions like, “Why do you say that?” Speak for yourself, not for the person who’s been targeted—talk about how it made you uncomfortable. “I feel X when you said Y because Z.” If someone calls you in for saying something racist, ableist, or ageist in this moment, be gracious. Resist the urge to be defensive. Apologize and thank the person for calling you in. Remember that what you said does not make you a bad person, but also that the person you’re talking to does not owe you anything for your apology and you should not expect anything in return. Take a moment to reflect on how you’d like to speak and act in the future.

From Better Allies: Speaking up when witnessing a microaggression isn’t necessarily easy because of power dynamics. So we recommend you have a couple of stock phrases to pull out when you need them. Here are some ideas:

  • “What makes you say that?”
  • “Why do you think she’s the right person to do <some lower level or administrative task>?”
  • “We don’t do that here.”
  • “I don’t get it. Can you explain the joke to me?”
  • “Wow, that was awkward.”

The Taking ACTION framework (first introduced in Chueng, Ganote, & Souza, 2016): Ask clarifying questions to assist with understanding intentions.

“I want to make sure that I understand what you were saying.  Were you saying that…?”
Come from curiosity not judgment.
Listen actively and openly to their response.
If they disagree with your paraphrase and clarify a different meaning, you could end the conversation. If you suspect they are trying to “cover their tracks,” you may consider making a statement about the initial comment to encourage learning.
“I’m glad to hear I misunderstood you, because, as you know, such comments can be…”
If they agree with your paraphrase, explore their intent behind making the comment.
“Can you tell me what you were you hoping to communicate with that comment?”
“Can you please help me understand what you meant by that?”
Tell what you observed as problematic in a factual manner.
“I noticed that . . .”
Impact exploration: ask for, and/or state, the potential impact of such a statement or action on others.
“What do you think people think when they hear that type of comment?”
“As you know, everything speaks. What message do you think such a comment sends?”
“What impact do you think that comment could have on …”
Own your own thoughts and feelings around the impact.
“When I hear your comment I think/feel…”
“Many people might take that comment to mean…”
“In my experience, that comment can perpetuate negative stereotypes and assumptions about… I would like to think that is not your intent.”
Next steps: Request appropriate action be taken.
“Our class is a learning community, and such comments make it difficult for us to focus on learning because people feel offended. So I am going to ask you to refrain from stating your thoughts in that manner in the future. Can you do that please?”
“I encourage you to revisit your view on X as we discuss these issues more in class.”
“I’d appreciate it if you’d consider using a different term because it is inconsistent with our course agreement regarding X…”

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