The recent and ongoing hate crimes against Asians in America is deeply saddening and distressing. In order to support our Asian communities, we want to do our part in spreading awareness and calling out those making Anti-Asian racist comments. Calling out people when they make racist comments or do something racist is never an easy thing to do, but it is the necessary and right thing to do. Therefore, here is a template of responses you can use if you ever see or hear someone saying Anti-Asian racist comments. Our voices and words are powerful in these uncomfortable situations. Hopefully these responses may be helpful for you in responding to racist comments and microaggressions.
Responding to Color Blindness
Ex: “I don’t believe in race.”
Response: Ask the speaker to elaborate. Get more information about where s/he is coming from. This may also help the speaker to become aware of what s/he is saying.
- “Could you clarify what you mean by that?”
- “So, what do you believe in? Can you elaborate on that?
- “It sounds like you have a strong opinion about this. Tell me why.”
Pathologizing Cultural Values/ Communication Styles
Ex: Asking an Asian person: “Why do you have to be so loud? Just calm down.”
Response: Use your own words to reflect what the speaker has said. Paraphrasing helps demonstrate understanding and reduces the defensiveness of both you and the speaker. Try to restate in your own words and reflect both feeling and content in your response when possible.
- “It appears you were uncomfortable when ____ said that. I’m thinking that there are many styles to express ourselves. How we can honor all styles of expression – can we talk about that?”
- “So, it sounds like you think…”
- “You’re saying that…”
- “You believe..”
Ex: To an Asian woman or woman of color: “I would have never guessed that you were a scientist/ doctor.”
Response: Re-frame and create a different way to look at the situation.
- “I’m wondering what message this is sending her. Do you think you would have said this to a white male?”
- “What would happen if…”
- “Let’s re-frame this….”
- “Do you actually believe that? If so, how come?”
Ex: Saying “You people…”
Response: A clear, nonthreatening way to directly address these issues is to focus on oneself rather than the speaker or person. This can communicate the impact of a situation while avoiding blaming or accusing the other and reduces defensiveness.
- “I felt ____ (feelings) when you said _____, and it _____ (describe the impact on you).”
- “I was upset by that remark that I shut down and couldn’t hear anything else.”
- “As your friend, I feel obligated to let you know that that remark was racist.”
Ascription of Intelligence:
Ex: To an Asian person, “You’re all good in math, can you help me with this problem?”
Response: Ask the speaker to elaborate. Understand where they are coming from, and explain how the comment made you feel to help the speaker be more aware of what s/he is saying.
- “Can you elaborate on your point?”
- “Say more about that, what do you mean?”
- “I didn’t want to single you out before, but that comment made me uncomfortable. Here’s why…”
- “I know you were just trying to make a joke, but here is why it was offensive…”
- “Hey! I wanted to follow up on you why I responded, “yikes,” to your comment. Checkout this article, it explains things better than I could…
- “I really don’t feel comfortable when you make comments like that.”
Final Tips of Advice/ Considerations:
- When responding to Anti-Asian racist comments and microaggressions, using the communication approach in combination with impact and preference statements is most effective.
- Separate the person from the action or behavior. Instead of directly saying “you’re racist”, try “that could be perceived as a racist remark”. Being called a racist can be considered “fighting words” and puts someone on the defensive, making them less likely to listen to what you have to say.
- Instead of starting questions with “Why”, use “How” or “What made you…”
- When addressing microaggressions, try avoiding using “you” too often, it could leave people feeling defensive. Use “I” statements to describe the impact on you.
- Responses don’t have to be confrontational. Offer time to chat about things further and share resources to further education the speaker.
- Take comfort in knowing that calling out people is not easy or comfortable, but it’s the right thing to do.
There are many, many more examples of microaggressions and Anti-Asian racist comments, but hopefully this template was helpful for you in responding to some of the most commonly heard microaggressions.
Adapted from Kenney, G. (2014). Interrupting Microaggressions, College of the Holy Cross, Diversity Leadership & Education. Accessed on-line, October 2014. Kraybill, R. (2008).“Cooperation Skills,” in Armster, M. and Amstutz, L., (Eds.), Conflict Transformation and Restorative Justice Manual, 5th Edition, pp. 116-117. LeBaron, M. (2008). “The Open Question,” in Armster, M. and Amstutz, L., (Eds.), Conflict Transformation and Restorative Justice Manual, 5th Edition, pp. 123-124. Peavey, F. (2003). “Strategic Questions as a Tool for Rebellion,” in Brady, M., (Ed.), The Wisdom of Listening, Boston: Wisdom Publ., pp. 168-189.
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