When faced with social injustices, bias incidents, and controversial speakers, it is extremely difficult to cope and know what to do. Feeling overwhelmed with the current socio-political state, experiencing discrimination, or being impacted by contentious people or policies increases stress which remains correlated to negative mental health outcomes. During these times, it remains imperative that we take care of ourselves, take care of loved ones, and take care of our campus community. We all have the power to spread kindness, celebrate diversity and inclusion, and promote social justice. We are all called to be activists, advocates, and allies to build a community of care.
It is essential for us to take action, engage in intentional self-care and spread the light – to an extent and at the level you are ready to do so. By doing so, we support our personal and community holistic health. By reflecting, engaging, and taking action, we are making positive contributions to our mental and emotional health. Please remember that speaking up and acting in ways that are aligned with your values can take many different forms. And each step counts; small acts of self-care, community-care, and love make a big difference. Below are some suggestions and resources for actively coping with social injustices and hatred.
You matter, you belong and together, we can work towards a better tomorrow. By educating ourselves and staying committed to building a community of care, we can make strides in creating a more connected and inclusive campus. Let’s be leaders at our best and commit to creating a community of care.
- Personal Level: U MATTER
- Reflect on who you are. We all have biased thoughts and beliefs. Look into your own biases and stereotypes. Explore your intersecting identities. Recognize where your privilege lies. Read about allyship. Take BAM! Best Allyship Movement, an online training from the University of Florida that walks you through these steps. See the appendix for further educational tools.
- Educate yourself about social injustices and speech that further marginalizes underprivileged communities. Be clear about what is unacceptable to you in their rhetoric. Sign-up for an Intergroup Relations Workshop (a social justice education program), sign-up for a MESA allyhood retreat or workshop, and utilize the links to see campus and social justice educational resources for more.
- See the impact. Recognize when a bias incident or hate crime happens, understand how it hurts us all, leaving the community unsafe and on-guard.
- SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT against injustice. Do not merely be a bystander. Understand when and how to use your voice to be an activist or ally for yourself and others.
- Allow your emotions to be. It is normal to have a wide range of emotions and reactions. Own your feelings. Recognize that they are normal and valid. Find a safe outlet to express your emotions.
- Engage in intentional self-care. Eat healthy, follow a consistent sleep schedule, stay hydrated, practice being physically active. Engage in meaningful practices such as art, acts of generosity, listening to or making music, meditation, prayer or being in the nature. Utilize counselors to support and empower you. The U-M Stressbusters App is a free tool to also help you engage in self-care.
- Set boundaries. Stay away from people and places that make you uncomfortable. Take breaks away from media and social media. Engage in and disengage from conversations as you need. Assert your needs and own your readiness especially if you feel judged for not being or acting a certain way. Listen to your instincts and remember that cultural mistrust -lack of trust in the mainstream culture due to experienced and historical oppression- has been a survival strategy for marginalized groups.
- Interpersonal: U BELONG
- Tap into your resources. Connect with others who “affirm your humanity.” Join a student group whose mission connects with you. Get support from allies, groups, and experts on campus including Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, MESA. When ready, make new connections by reaching out to people outside your own comfort zone.
- Engage in conversations. Dialogue with others about race, gender identity, religion and so forth. Educate others about the negative impact of hate. Share stories of acceptance, respect and unity. Promote taking action.
- Support your community. Engage in volunteering work. Show those who are targeted by hate messages that you are with them in solidarity. If you know about a bias incident or hate crime, show the victims that you care.
- Work to enhance the connection/unity within your community whether it is your hall, your student org, or your department. Request for multicultural outreaches, and collaborate with diverse student groups and campus organizations. Organize events that celebrate differences.
- Institutional Level: U CAN MAKE COMMUNITY CHANGE
- Work with leaders including deans, presidents, student leaders, residential advisors, campus police, faculty, university officials, and politicians. Encourage them to publicly address causes of hate and the wide-spread negative effect on community.
- Work with media. Ask for nuanced and thoughtful news coverage. Invite journalists to share stories that communicate the impact of hate at individual and community levels.
- Find ways to speak up. Demonstrate, protest and show your opposition through diverse and positive means. Consider finding creative ways to be heard without giving controversial speakers the attention they seek.