Encountering Racism



on Campus 

I keep hearing about hate crimes and racist incidents happening at colleges. It's making me a little nervous about being on a college campus. 

What should  I do if I am racially profiled or discriminated against on campus? 

Racial Microaggressions 

Most often, minority students won't experience blatant or overt acts of racism or discrimination on campus. What is more common are racial microaggressions. A microaggression is a "statement, action or incident that is subtle, indirect or unintentionally discriminatory against a marginalized group." It might be something that another student says or the way they interact with you that might make you feel isolated or discriminated against. 

Examples of Microaggressions: 

  • When people assume that a Latinx or Asian student was born in another country. 

  • A student holding her purse when a Latino or African American male student sits beside her. 

  • Suggesting that a person of color "talks White" or "is very articulate" to be his or her race or ethnicity.

  • Asking to touch your hair. 


Read more about the most common forms of racial microaggressions. 

Finding Support on Campus 

Join an ethnic club, organization, or student group. Through these organizations, you can interact with students who share your ethnic, racial or religious background and who have experienced the same incidents and feelings that you have. If a serious act of racism or discrimination takes place, student groups can work to be a united voice against such behaviors. 

Participate in dialogues focused on race and diversity issues. Colleges often host workshops and conversations related to race, racism, and diversity. Be sure to participate in these opportunities so that your experience and voice can be heard.


If offered, apply to live in a multicultural dorm. Many colleges and universities offer dorms specifically with a multicultural focus. Some of these dorms are designed for specific ethnic, linguistic, or cultural groups or provide a living environment for students particularly interested in living with diverse students. 

Connect with minority alumni. Students who successfully graduated from your school can share the strategies they used to get through the situations where they experienced racism or feelings of isolation that you might be experiencing. They are also a reminder that it is totally possible to deal with incidents of racism or discrimination and still successfully complete your studies. 

Adapted from From Four Ways Minority Students Can Cope with Racism on Campus  by Nadra Kareem Nittle