Race is how people are grouped based on shared skin color and other physical features. Race is not based on genetics or science. Everyone has a racial identity that affects their lives. Racism is when one group of people is given opportunities and treated well, and another group is discriminated against and treated poorly because of their race.
What are some tools to cope with racism that I or people in my community may experience?
Take care of yourself
- Be kind to yourself. It is normal to feel sad or angry if you have experienced racist behavior. For more on being kind to yourself, including activities, visit Self-Compassion.org
- Remind yourself that it is not your fault if you experience racist behaviors.
- For some people, social media and the news can make them feel sadder or angrier. If this is true for you, try limiting the amount of time you spend on these activities.
Connect with others
- Learn about and celebrate the history of your culture and community.
- Join with others to address the effects of racism in your community. One way to do this is by joining a local advocacy organization.
- Ask for help from loved ones or from your doctor if you are feeling sad, anxious or unsafe.
- Get mental health treatment from a psychologist (therapist or counselor) or psychiatrist (therapist who can prescribe medications, if needed). Ask your local community resource center or your primary care provider for a referral or recommendations, if needed.
- Look for books, podcasts and other resources about mental health online or in your community. For example, this link from Rheeda Walker, PhD, from the University of Houston, discusses her book, “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health.”
Resources to learn more about racism
- Embrace Race®
An organization dedicated to children’s racial learning (how and when children learn about different races).
- Racial Empowerment Collaborative®
An organization that brings together community leaders, researchers, authority figures, families and youth to study and promote racial literacy (learning how to recognize, respond to and counter racism) and health in schools and neighborhoods.
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
A book about the life of a teenage black girl as her two worlds converge over questions of police brutality (excessive and unjustified use of force by law enforcement), justice and activism (local, national and international efforts to bring about political or social change).
- “March” by John Lewis
A graphic novel trilogy (three-part series) by the late Civil Rights activist and Congressman John Lewis describing his early years as the son of a sharecropper through the years leading to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
- Code Switch®
“When Xenophobia Spreads like a Virus”
A look at the xenophobia and racism experienced by Asians and Asian Americans as COVID-19 spread, as well as a look at America’s history of xenophobic responses to diseases.
- Code Switch®
“Audie and the Not So Magic School Bus” - a journalist reflects on her experience attending suburban Boston area schools as part of METCO.
Resources on racism and your health
MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital
- Your healthcare team. Discuss your specific needs with your care team. If needed, request that they refer you to additional resources.
- Mental Health Resources for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). This is a collection of therapists who are comfortable talking about how race affects your mood, online support groups and self-guided virtual resources.
- Office of Patient Advocacy. Everyone at Mass General and MGHfC hopes you never have to experience racism and discrimination while at the hospital or one of the outpatient clinics. If you do have this experience, please call the Office of Patient Advocacy at 617-726-3370.
Joining an advocacy organization can be a powerful way to fight racism and build community. An advocacy organization tries to stand up for and makes political or social changes in their community, state or country. There are many great community organizations you can get involved with. Below are just some examples:
- Student Immigrant Movement is a Massachusetts-based youth-led organization bringing together young people to discover new opportunities and to grow as leaders in our communities. SIM supports immigrant and non-immigrant youth alike through 1-on-1 peer mentoring, providing safe spaces, specialized programs, and grassroots organizing training.
The resources below are places where you can report instances of racism that have happened to you or someone in your family.
- Attorney General’s Office
The Attorney General’s Office speaks up for and provides resources for people in Massachusetts, including those who experience racism and discrimination.
To report discrimination, call 617-727-8400 or visit the Attorney General's Office website.
- Boston Public Schools
To report racism in Boston Public Schools, visit the district's website. Click on “Report a Biased Based or Sexual Misconduct Incident.”
- Greater Boston Legal Services
To speak to a lawyer about discrimination you have experienced, contact Greater Boston Legal Services at 617-371-1234 or visit the GBLS website.
- Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination aims to end discrimination in Massachusetts.
To file a report, visit the Commission's website.
- State Department of Education
To report racism in schools that has not been resolved at the local level, call the State Department of Education at 781-338-3000.
File a complaint at the Department of Education's website.
Rev. 6/2021. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.