How to Cope With Racism


Racism is a system of laws, policies, and practices that assign value and determine opportunity based on skin color. This system negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of communities of color and stifles economic growth for all. Fortunately, there are many ways to combat racism. For example, seeking a support system of peers and community, forging a strong sense of identity, and talking about racist experiences can all help people cope with the stress caused by racism.

Moreover, seeking social and political change through activism and by connecting with a group that believes in progressive change can be helpful for some individuals. In addition, counseling can help people understand and process their emotions related to experiencing racism.

A growing body of research shows that centuries of racism have had a harmful impact on the mental and physical health of people of color, limiting their access to educational, economic, and occupational opportunities and hindering their ability to overcome challenges such as poverty and violence. Ultimately, this negatively impacts society as a whole.

For decades, the Census Bureau has been conducting research to improve questions and data on race and ethnicity. These research efforts have resulted in changes to the way people answer the race question, including a move to an optional multiracial category, adding questions about Hispanic origin and nationality, and providing different response options for those who identify as Hispanic. The Bureau also uses the information it collects on race and ethnicity to meet a variety of responsibilities, including making legislative redistricting decisions, promoting equal opportunity, and assessing health disparities.

Many of the comments received by the Bureau emphasized that there is significant confusion about what is meant by the terms “race” and “ethnicity.” Cognitive research has found that some people see little difference between ancestry or cultural affiliation and skin color, and they use these concepts interchangeably. Others, however, are clear about the distinction between these two characteristics and are offended by being asked to choose one over the other.

Some people suggested that the standard categories should reflect a combination of ancestry and skin color. However, it would be difficult to create new categories that are as comprehensive as the existing ones without introducing additional inaccuracies or creating ambiguities. Additionally, these changes could add to the burden on respondents who have to select multiple combinations of races and/or ethnicities. The Bureau of the Census has already established procedures for aggregating detailed data collections back to the broader categories set forth in Directive No. 15. These changes could also add to the complexity of reaggregating data for various purposes. The Bureau will consider these issues in reaching a final decision on standards for classification of data on race and ethnicity. In the meantime, we will continue to seek feedback from the public about what other options might be appropriate. To provide input, please visit our race and ethnicity feedback page. The comments we receive will inform our research as we develop a final policy decision.