Written by Dr. Sarah Ropp
April is a stressful time of year under the very best of circumstances. These are not the very best of circumstances: daily, there is more news of violent attacks, both rhetorical and physical, against people from the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities; police violence against Black people; mass shootings across the country; and gender violence. Below are a few ideas for supporting students, and yourself, during the last month of this semester. They include options to pursue bystander intervention training; practical mental health resources; and 3 ideas for classroom dialogues related to imposter syndrome and belonging, challenging biased language, and considering the racialization of social threats in a comparative historical perspective.
- Attend a Bystander Intervention Training
Hollaback! in partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) are offering free, one-hour, online bystander intervention trainings specifically focused on recognizing and responding to incidents of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander bias. Sign up here. Advertise to students, too.
Note that you can also sign up for bystander intervention training to address gender-based harassment, here.
- Share Resources with Students
“Making It to May: Ideas for Stress Relief” is a one-page infographic with about 30 simple, free ideas for coping with stress and anxiety. Circulate to students via Canvas announcement, add to your email signature for the rest of the semester, or take 1-3 minutes to practice one of the techniques together at the beginning or end of each class. PDF version here.
The Students’ Guide to Radical Healing is a fantastic 40-page graphic booklet that helps people understand trauma and its impact as well as discover a variety of healing modalities. Circulate to students and keep handy to reshare with individuals as needed.
Graduate Student Mental Health Services is a 5-page booklet that contains links and contact information for all relevant campus resources related to health and wellness. Most of the content is relevant for undergraduates as well! Circulate to students, but keep a copy handy for yourself as well, both for your own use and in order to be able to refer students to services readily.
- Incorporate Classroom Dialogues on Belonging, Biased Language, and Racializing Threat
Classroom Dialogue #1: Imposter Syndrome and Belonging
- Define imposter syndrome using this four-minute video: “What Is Imposter Syndrome?”
- Read and respond to this brief article on Kevin Cokley’s imposter syndrome study at UT-Austin: “Impostor Feelings Fuel Negative Mental Health Outcomes for Minority Students.” Did anything surprise you about these findings? Are they consistent with your own experiences and/or observations? What further questions does the article raise for you? The focus of this article is on ethnic and racial minority students; what other groups of students do you think are likely to experience imposter syndrome?
- Take this quick assessment to determine whether you struggle with imposter feelings to any degree: Clance IP scale. Are you surprised by these results? Is imposter syndrome something you have thought or talked much about before?
- Watch this one-minute video from the Blanton Museum: “Belonging”. Complete the associated dialogue and action. After each person shares, affirm their belonging in the way that feels most natural and sincere to you:
Verbally: “Thank you for sharing that.” “Welcome.” “Glad you’re here.” (etc)
Physically: Smile. Nod your head. Bow. Give a thumbs up. (etc)
Visually: Use a Zoom reaction button. Type a smiley face or heart into the chat. Hold up a drawing of a heart or other symbol of welcome and affirmation. (etc)
Classroom Dialogue #2: Identifying and Challenging Biased Language
- Read this text: “Biased Language Definitions and Examples,” ThoughtCo (2019)
- Generate a list of other examples of biased language. Here are a few examples to start:
- “ghetto” (a racialized term used to indicate any of the following or a combination: impoverished, violent, “tacky,” unrefined, uneducated, etc)
- “crippled” (used either in a literal sense to describe a disability or non-literal sense to describe the impacts of difficulty or hardship)
- “gypped” (a derogatory reference to Sinti and Roma peoples, formerly known as Gypsies, to mean “cheated” or “scammed”)
- “Indian giver” (a derogatory reference to Native Americans, to mean one who gives a gift with the intention of recalling it for oneself)
- “Latino time” (used to indicate a stereotype of habitual lateness or a relaxed, non-rigid sense of time)
- “A blonde moment” (indicating a moment of forgetfulness, silliness, illogic, unintelligence, etc)
- “ethnic-looking,” “ethnic food,” “ethnic clothing,” etc (indicating anything NOT associated with the presumed “neutral” or “default” White + Anglo-Saxon + Protestant + Northern European culture, people, and phenotype)
- “Hysterical” (a gendered way to describe an emotional response that is erratic, overdramatic, irrational, out-of-control, etc)
- “Kung flu” or “Chinese virus” (a racialized way to describe COVID-19)
Note that biased language also includes mocking or imitating non-dominant accents, speech patterns, dialects, and language varieties like African American Vernacular English; South Asian or East Asian accents; a Southern U.S. accent adopted to indicate ignorance or poverty; speech patterns stereotypically associated with gay men; etc.
3. Share examples. Categorize examples into 2 groups: 1) examples that the class agrees fairly unanimously is biased and harmful and 2) examples that people have questions about. Discuss why the examples of biased language in the “we have questions about this” category generate doubt. Is it because it is a term whose connection to a certain identity group may not be known to most people who use it (e.g. many people don’t know that “hysterical” refers to the uterus)? Is it because the term is sometimes invoked with a positive intention (e.g. praising someone’s “ethnic features”)? Is it because the term might be used lovingly by the folks belonging to the identity group it refers to (e.g. lots of Latinx people invoke the concept of “Latino time”)? (And so on.) Work through that doubt: Who gets to decide what language is unacceptable and who gets to use what language? What should you do if you’re not sure whether a term is biased or not?
4. What harm does biased language do? Think about the known or potential impact of biased language in terms of the personal (feelings; self-image; sense of belonging or exclusion; interpersonal relationships) and the public/political (policy; political action; political rhetoric; social norms; cultural attitudes; etc). Connect specific examples of biased language to specific harms, if you can. What should you do if you use biased language, on purpose or not?
5. What should you do if you witness the use of biased language by classmates, peers, colleagues, family members, authority figures, and others? To begin, refer to some of the five Ds of bystander intervention identified in BeVocal UT’s Powerpoint presentation:
What would a direct response look like?
How could you distract from what is happening?
Does delay apply here?
Under what circumstances would you delegate intervention?
When is documentation necessary or useful?
What are other ways to address biased language?
Classroom Dialogue #3: Racializing Threat in Historical Perspective
Text: “Lead’s Racial Matters,” from Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect, Mel Y. Chen, Duke UP, 2012. Pair with Jabin Botford’s photograph of Trump crossing out “corona” in “coronavirus” and writing in “Chinese” instead.
Summary of Text: Chen discusses the 2007 panic in the U.S. over traces of lead paint in children’s toys manufactured in China, describing how an “inanimate but migrant” substance–lead–became racialized and notions of the Chinese other as toxic, impure, and threatening became reanimated and re-legitimized.
Possible discussion prompts: Compare and contrast the coronavirus crisis to the 2007 lead paint scare: what similarities do you notice? What important differences exist? Discuss some other moments in history in which a specific threat (imagined or real) was racialized. Pick one such moment and research the consequences for the ethnic group(s) associated with this threat as well as the consequences on policy and society more generally. Describe or predict, referring to your research, what some of the consequences of the coronavirus have been or will be, in terms of racial relations in the U.S., international relations, immigration policy, border enforcement, etc, etc. Discuss what Asian and Asian-descended people are experiencing locally, nationally, or globally at the moment, referring to recent testimonies, interviews, articles, and/or (if applicable and only if you wish) personal experience.