What is race?

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.

What is racism?

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. Racism occurs between people and in the systems that affect our lives today, such as laws or lack of funding in schools that serve black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC).

Discrimination is when people are treated unfairly because of their race, gender, sex, age, ability or other characteristics.

Racism is wrong and dangerous. Sadly, racism is common. Many people experience racism every day. Racism can affect a person’s emotional wellbeing and their health.

How does racism affect a person's health?

When a person experiences racism, they can also experience the symptoms shown in the picture below.

A graphic of a person surrounded by words of mental health symptoms caused by racism
Racism can affect a person's mental, physical and overall health in many of the ways shown in this graphic.


How does racism affect people?

Here are 2 YouTube® videos that show how racism can affect people.

Where can I learn more about my own and others’ races and cultures?

  • Black in America
    A long-running podcast that discusses different historical and current people whose stories bring awareness to the Black American experience.
  • Code Switch
    Conversations about race and how affects every part of life. Topics range from politics, pop culture, history, sports and everything in between.
  • Kerning Cultures
    A podcast that focuses on the Middle East, Northern African and the Arab American experience.
  • Radio Ambulante
    A narrative podcast that tells unique Latin American stories in Spanish.
  • Red Nation
    A podcast with discussions on Indigenous history, politics and culture.
  • Self Evident
    Shares in-depth stories from different Asian American communities.

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.

Get support

  • 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 on racism and your health

Mass General 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 MGfC 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.

Advocacy organizations

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:

  • City Life Vida Urbana helps people stay in their homes by uniting community members to fight evictions, racism, and economic injustice. If you are facing eviction, call 617-934-5006 or 617-397-3773 (Spanish).
  • Matahari Women’s Workers Center brings together women workers (including nannies, house cleaners, home health aides, and restaurant workers) to fight for labor rights, oppose wage theft and build community across race, ethnicity, and multiple languages.
  • The MassCosh Immigrant Worker Center is a safe place for immigrants to speak up about workplace abuse and join with a powerful network of workers demanding safe, healthy working conditions. If you are facing exploitation or discrimination in your workplace, call 617-505-8939 or 617-505-8940.
  • 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.

General resources

The resources below are places where you can report instances of racism that have happened to you or someone in your family.

Rev. 6/2021. Mass General 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.