Racism and Public Health

King County Commitment

King County recently declared racism a public health crisis, as a way to "protect the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous People of Color." As a governing agency, it acknowledged its role in maintaining and perpetuating structural racism. As an agency within King County, LWTech remains committed to anti-racism work. LWTech wants to share how college students' mental and physical health are impacted by racism, what LWTech is doing to create an anti-racist environment, and how students can receive assistance. 

Why Racism is a Public Health Concern

Eschner (2020) outlines an argument as to why racism is a public health concern. Because of systemic racism, racism that is suspended as an operating method to develop and deliver governance policy through White Supremacy, protect the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) are more likely to experience lower-quality healthcare and have less access to resources like education. Also, a public health issue can generally be defined and outlined as a situation or condition that hurts and kills people. The impact racism has on BIPOC falls into that concept, and then constitutes a public health crises. Continuing with this idea, Eschner writes that police violence disproportionately impacts BIPOC, leaving this situation to take a toll on a community's mental well-being. That can be directly linked to overall health. 

LWTech's Commitment

After the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, the United States engaged in a national reckoning with its racist past finally lead public policy changes in some areas, including public health policies. LWTech developed statements from college leadership groups supporting Black Lives Matter. Included in the college's commitment to Black Lives Matter and anti-racism work, are resources for professional development. Lists of films, videos, data sources, books, book lists, and podcasts guide work the college is undertaking to continue its commitment. As a predominantly White institution, professional development with an anti-racism focus is leading how administration hires trainers. In addition to this commitment, the college acknowledges that students are impacted by racism which remains a preeminent health concern. Additionally, the college is continuing its work supporting BIPOC students by using this lens on the toll racism takes.

Black Lives Matter

LWTech supports Black Lives Matter because it connects to the State Board for Community and Technical College's equity, diversity, and inclusion initiative, Leading with Racial Equity. Research shows that retention of BIPOC from quarter to quarter is decreased due to racist and discriminatory practices. By taking a stand to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter LWTech takes action to find, identify, and dismantle systemically racist systems that act against BIPOC student success. Part of that work is acknowledging that racism is a public health concern. Racism impacts our BIPOC student's ability to maintain emotional and physical health to successfully complete a quarter in order to finish a degree or certificate program.

Leading with racial equity also connects with LWTech's workforce mission. By supporting Black Lives Matter, focusing on BIPOC student success, LWTech is demonstrating how our workforce mission contributes to decreasing unemployment rates between Black and White workers, and decreasing pay disparities relative to White workers.

Racism On Campus

Racism can be overt, like racist hate speech scribbled on a wall. Racism can also be covert, like comments made in a class directed toward BIPOC. LWTech does not condone this behavior and has conduct expectations for all members of the college community. However, racism does occur on campus and information below is intended to both acknowledge LWTech's responsibility in anti-racist work and support students with information about emotional support. The information below also points to learning for our White colleagues, helping them acknowledge their role in creating and sustaining systemically racist systems at the college and their responsibility to dismantle them.

Working Definitions

It is important to use definitions when engaging in this work. Here are some common definitions used by the college when engaging in anti-racism work.

Oluo (2019) writes about racism as a difficult concept to put into words, and also find common meaning. However, there are two generally accepted definitions of racism she writes:

  1. "racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race."
  2. "racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power". 

This then forms a working definition of race. Another approach is how race is defined in the context of Critical Race Theory. In this context, racism is how our society goes about doing it's "normal" business.

Writers examine White supremacy through many lens. Saad (2020) write about White supremacy as a collection of constructs. Those include:

  • White privilege
  • White fragility
  • Tone policing
  • White silence
  • White superiority
  • White exceptionalism
  • Colorblindness
  • Stereotyping
  • Cultural appropriation
  • White apathy
  • White centering
  • Tokenism
  • White saviorism
  • Optical allyship

Each of these are different ways White people center their privilege toward or at BIPOC. You can use the online workbook to learn more about these concepts. This could include how White people bring these contexts into the work, relationships, and community work. DiAngelo (2018) breaks the construct into a historical understanding. In early (what became) America, enslaved people were exploited for labor. However, White people in power then created racial inferiority to justify the enslavement of Blacks. White supremacy is then the idea of keeping this power imbalance to justify the supremacy of White people over BIPOC.

A microagression can take three different forms. They can be microassaults, microinsults, or microinvalidations. Generally, a microagression is an experience a marginalized individual goes through based on behavior of a non-marginalized person. In terms of racism, an example of a microagression might be a statement based in a stereotype directed at a BIPOC. Microagressions are considered unconscious statements based in ignorance. However, once a person learns about these statements, they must be corrected. 

A microassault is when a person intentionally behaves in a discriminatory way while not intending to be offensive. An example of a microassault is a person telling a racist joke then saying, “I was just joking.”

A microinsult is a comment or action that is unintentionally discriminatory. For example, this could be a person saying to an Indian doctor, “Your people must be so proud.”

A microinvalidation is when a person’s comment invalidates or undermines the experiences of a certain group of people. An example of a microinvalidation would be a white person telling a black person that “racism does not exist in today’s society.”

The Emotional Toll of Racism

In 2020, Anderson wrote about the emotional toll of racism on college students. Whether students experience racism in the classroom, in social groups, or from working with programs and services, the toll of that experience weighs heavily on BIPOC students. Students who want support from administration related to campus hate crimes, or in class culture that support casual racism like microaggressions, microinsults, or microinvalidations, are glad to finally be validated for their experiences. However, activist students of color working to end racism on their campus "frequently sideline their own mental health needs to focus on the fight for racial justice" (Anderson, 2020). The article continues stating that students are left to feel invalidated and undervalued, when racism is not addressed on campus; especially when a college claims that hate speech is protected as a First Amendment Right. These racist actions could leave students psychologically scared, and work to continue to support systemic racism.

Goodwin (2018) talks about this emotional toll as Racial Battle Fatigue. Symptoms of racial battle fatigue include regularly dealing with layered microaggressions. More specifically, the theorist William Smith writes that:

 “Cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals.”

Layered microaggressions happen when BIPOC experience verbal and non-verbal insults, where insults are also about other parts of their identity, that are cumulative when BIPOC maintain behavior that privileges White people. It is the cycle of deflection that creates racial battle fatigue.

Ways Racism Shows Up on Campus

Whether in or out of class, racism commonly shows up on campus for BIPOC students. Here are some examples from Anderson (2020). 

  • Being racially profiled by campus police/security
  • Receiving disparate treatment by staff members
  • Witnessing a White professor using the N-word
  • Being stereotyped by peers 
  • BIPOC voice not represented in college committees
  • No BIPOC centered campus activities

To continue the work of anti-racism, LWTech is looking at how it systemically support racism in the context of being a college. Acknowledging racism as a health concern for our BIPOC students works to support our students health, while making sure we educate our White colleagues.

On Campus Support

If you experience these situations, you have resources. The RISE Center is a student funded program with the express purpose of offering a safe place for BIPOC students to share their experience, find support, report incidents, and feel connected to community. Currently, the RISE Center is offering virtual drop in hours while the college is in remote operation. The college calendar outlines when those hours are. You may also connect with our Center coordinator for more specific assistance with your campus experience. 

The college also offers free counseling support as another resource to use when experiencing the trauma of racism. 

Off Campus Support or Activist Organizations

The region has other support or activist organizations, if you are looking for a support system or ways to engage in anti-racism work. Specific organizations are local. Information provided here is based on a list from EarShot Jazz Festival.

The Communities of Color Coalition is an organization focused on problem solving for systemic change. They are located in Everett, Washington.

Black Lives Matter organization focuses on fighting for the protection and liberation of Black lives. They are located in Seattle, Washington
Africatown Community Land Trust is working for community ownership of land in the Central District that can support the cultural and economic thriving of people who are part of the African diaspora. The Africatown Community Land Trust is comprised of real estate professionals, business executives, entrepreneurs, and longtime community members from the Central District.
Creative Justice is an arts-based alternative to incarceration. Creative Justice builds community with youth most impacted by the school-to-prison-(to-deportation) pipeline. Participants and mentor artists work together to examine the root causes of incarceration, like systemic racism and other forms of oppression, and create art that articulates the power and potential of our communities.
Formed in 2001, this organization partners with several other local organizations such as the Duwamish Tribe, El Comité, Got Green, BAYAN PNW and others. They are an affiliate of the nation-based organization Showing Up For Racial Justice.
A grassroots coalition of Seattle abolitionist organizations calling for the defunding of the Seattle Police Department. Their list of demands are inspired by Movement for Black Lives and Reclaim the Block and are rooted in years of work opposing police and prisons in the Seattle region.

National Support Organizations

These organizations are focused on healing strategies for the Black Community. This list is maintained by the National Alliance on Mental Health

This online resource provides information to Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color struggling with mental health and addiction.

BEAM is an organization made up of a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities. They envision a world where there are no barriers to Black healing.

The mission of Black Men Heal is: Healed men heal men. The organization works to provide access to mental health treatment, psycho-education, and community resources to men of color.

Black Mental Health Alliance works to develop, promote and sponsor trusted culturally-relevant educational forums, trainings and referral services that support the health and well-being of Black people and vulnerable communities. Their vision is the creation of an equitable, respectful and compassionate society. The development of Black communities in which optimal mental health enables children, youth, adults, and families to strive for and embrace their best life.

Black Mental Wellness provides access to evidence-based information and resources about mental health and behavioral health topics from a Black perspective, to highlight and increase the diversity of mental health professionals, and to decrease the mental health stigma in the Black community.

Black Women's Health Imperative is a national organization dedicated solely to improving the health and wellness of 21 million black women and girls; physically, emotionally,and financially.

Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness, believes that together, Black women across the African Diaspora can sustain their mental wellness through connecting to resources and supporting one another. Sista Afya is a social enterprise that provides low-cost mental wellness services that center the experiences of Black women. We believe that by making mental wellness simple, accessible, affordable, and centered around Black women's experiences, more people will get what they need to have a full, whole life. 

Asian Mental Health Collective's mission is to normalize and de-stigmatize mental health within the Asian community. The organization aspires to make mental health easily available, approachable, and accessible to Asian communities worldwide.

Addiction resources for Asian American College Students. This resource is from Lexington Addiction Center, located in Kentucky. Although not local, the organization has multiple resources for those struggling with addiction.

Asians do Therapy is a site created by a therapist, hoping to share therapy resources within the Asian community to reduce the stigma of seeking therapy.

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) promotes the mental health and well being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Since its founding, NAAPIMHA strives to raise awareness of the role of mental health in an individual’s health and well-being, especially in Asian American Pacific Islander communities throughout the country.

Latinx Therapy was founded in 2018 with the mission to destigmatize mental health in the Latinx community. Since then, they have expanded to become a bilingual podcast and national directory to find a Latinx Therapist (98% of our directory are Spanish speakers). Latinx Therapy strives to provides culturally-grounded workshops and services to our community. 

Addiction and mental health services for Latinx college students. This online resource focuses on mental health issues impacting the Latinx community and Latinx college students in particular. According to data, over 18% of Latinxs (7.7 million people) 18 or older experience a mental health issue. Of these people, nearly 25% experienced a serious mental health issue.

The National Alliance for Hispanic Health is the premier science-based and community-driven organization that focuses on the best health for all. Community-based members provide services to more than 15 million Hispanics throughout the U.S. every year and national organization members provide services to more than 100 million people annually.

The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) is a national education and advocacy organization that works alongside Native youth—ages 24 and under—on reservations, in rural villages and urban spaces across the country to improve their health, safety, and overall well- being. All Native youth deserve to lead full and healthy lives, have equal access to opportunity, draw strength from Native culture, and inspire one another. At CNAY, this is achieved through empowerment and culturally-competent methodologies that include leadership, youth-led policy agenda, and youth-led narrative


When You Hear Racist Comments

Based on the work from the Dismantling Racism organization, there are ways to provide feedback to people using racism in their everyday life, especially when on campus. 

  • Talk in the first person. Using these terms, “I felt-” or “When I heard you say-I had this reaction”, shows that you are speaking for yourself and avoiding general or global conclusions about "them" or "they".
  • Be specific. Focus on a particular action or statement. Avoid saying things like “You always-” or “You keep on-”.
  • Challenge the idea or action, not the person. Stick to the actions or behaviors that a person can do something about.
  • Ask questions to clarify or probe reasons. Assume people have a reason for what they do, and ask them to explain it so you can give more credible feedback.

Report Racist Behavior

If you overhear a comment made by another student, or receive a comment directed at you, please engage or report the incident. Engage with your colleagues if it is safe to do so, and use responses like the ones above. Report the incident through the college's reporting form. For the college to take action, the report must be completed by you, meaning your name will be attached to the report. All information received by the college in these reports are kept in a confidential database.

Write and Submit a Report

Check Your Biases

You can also learn more about your own biases, which can lead to active racism. Project Implicit was founded in 1998 by three scientists from University of Washington, Harvard University, and University of Virginia. You can take a free test to learn more about your internal biases. It is free and takes about 15 minutes for an English as first language speaker.


Learn More About Microaggressions and System Racism