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A Call For Bystander Intervention To End Racism

In the recent sociological blog debate on racism versus the supposed dawn of “post-racism” in America, we often touched on problems that make talking about racism difficult, if not entirely impossible.  In addition to institutional constraints, there are interpersonal factors that can derail meaningful conversations about race and racism.  In addition to calling attention to these barriers, it is important to make explicit that too few people take on this difficult task.

Responsibility For (Anti-)Racism

In general, too few people consistently assume responsibility for talking about race and racism, and fighting racism more broadly.  That kind of work is presumed to be taken on by activists and leaders of social movements.  But, in particular, the responsibility generally falls in the laps of those victimized by it — in this case, people of color.  As Jason noted in his contribution to the “post-racism” blog debate, racial and ethnic minorities generally face this burden alone.

But, people of color are neither alone in this racist society nor the creators of this system of oppression.  Whites are implicated by virtue of the benefits they receive (i.e., white privilege) from the historical legacy of racism, as well as today.  Eliminating racism, then, is just as much their responsibility, if not more, as it is for people of color.

As I re-watched a few of ABC’s “What Would You Do” social experiments regarding race and racism, I was reminded just how problematic America’s sense of responsibility for racism and anti-racism are.  While too few whites intervene when they witness racist discrimination in stores against (innocent) people of color, many seem quick to intervene to sanction Black people’s criminal behavior but not that of whites (see part 1 and part 2).  (Three young Black men sleeping in their own car got more calls to 911 than did three young white men vandalizing and breaking into someone else’s car.)

A Personal Anecdote

Racist events are plentiful, from small slights to extreme forms of violence.  So, there are too many missed opportunities to confront racism, or at least learn from these events to do things differently in the future.  One such event stands out in my own life.

At the start of my second semester of graduate school, my cohort and I sat through the beginning of our training and preparation to carry out a telephone survey on social attitudes that summer.  In talking through concerns for the project, whether we as  interviewers “talk black” was posed as a potential bias in our interviews.  It felt as though as though a grenade had gone off right in the middle of class, but we continued on ignoring it.  I thought, “was I the only one who heard that?”

This event only became an issue when my colleagues of color and I were overheard joking about the racist comment the following week.  That was brought to the attention of the professor who, out of concern, asked us whether and how to “handle” this.  Three weeks later, we finally devoted an entire two-hour class to discussing the comment about “talking black” — a phrase the professor wrote explicitly on the board to facilitate our conversation.

Of course, five minutes that felt like an eternity passed before anyone broke the thick silence that suffocated the room — it was me, naturally, in which I called attention to that deafening silence.  As the tense conversation carried on, my cohort was divided, with the students of color and anti-racist white students taking issue with the concern about “talking black,” and the rest remaining silent, or speaking up to say they did not see a problem or even recast the comment in their head so that it was not problematic.

The conversation boiled down to whether the commenter said “talking black” or talking black, where the quotation marks became the symbolic boundary between belief that there is a(n inferior) style of English unique to Black Americans and the knowledge that others believe that (but not believing it oneself).  Only a racist person would forgo the quotation marks, for this would reflect their own beliefs.

With the conversation ending with a half-ass apology from the commenter, that one’s upbringing in the Midwest should suffice as an excuse for one’s racist prejudice, we left the room more divided than ever before.  The rest of our department remained curious bystanders, but nothing more came of these events outside of the efforts of students of color to challenge racism in the department and university.

To add insult to injury, later in the semester, my colleagues of color and I overheard some of our classmates complain about the ongoing divisiveness, placing blame on us for not having gotten “over it” yet.  Their simultaneous lack of understanding and lack of sympathy only further fueled the division.  I am happy to say that a great deal has been forgiven, but one can never forget such events.  But, sadly, because little came of it, we saw yet another racist event occur years later.

A Call For Bystander Intervention

I, as others before me, call for a bystander intervention approach to ending racism.  Too often, individuals not directly involved in a dangerous or difficult scenario — or bystanders — simply stand-by and watch without intervening to provide help.  As such, in the case of the prevention of sexual violence (since this “bystander effect” was coined after no one intervened in the brutal rape and murder of Kitty Genovese), advocates have strongly emphasized the need to turn bystanders into potential interveners – “bystander intervention.”  Applied to racism, this means that individuals are called to action to intervene if they witness racist discrimination, bullying, or violence.

However, I push this anti-racist bystander intervention one step further beyond intervening in difficult situations.  Similar to my calls for bystander intervention to prevent sexual violence (i.e., rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment), I stress that our anti-racist work must include a sense that racism is a community issue and, as such, anti-racism is a community responsibility.

Ways To Intervene

A related aspect is noting that racism exists at multiple levels and, as such, there are an infinite number of ways in which we can fight it:

  1. One can intervene when they witness racist discrimination or harassment.  Of course, this depends upon a number of factors that make this easier said than done.  And, no one should intervene in ways that place them at risk for getting hurt.  If it is a scenario of extreme violence, like a racially-motivated hate crime, a safe means of intervening may be to call the police.  If it is an instance of the unfair firing of a Latina coworker, you could approach your supervisor to note that you feel your coworker deserves a second chance.
  2. Challenge racist prejudice.  This can entail calling people out who appear to harbor prejudice toward people of color, or hold misguided stereotypes.  It also means calling out offensive comments that others’ may make about racial and ethnic minorities.
  3. Challenge yourself.  No matter one’s racial or ethnic background, and one’s racial ideology, no one is immune to the pervasive poison of racism.  It is important to also check your own biases and actions.  Do you seek out friends of the same race?  Do you avoid “that part of town”?  Do you do certain things, at least in part, to avoid appearing racist?
  4. Educate yourself.  Unfortunately, most Americans leave formal education knowing little about racism and the history and experiences of people of color beyond obligatory coverage during Black History Month.  To push beyond this, one can take the time to learn more (even from March to January).  Read books about and by people of color.  Go see films on historical and contemporary accounts of the lives of racial and ethnic minorities.  Visit museums that feature exhibits on race and ethnicity.  Become comfortable talking about race and racism with the people around you, no matter their race and ethnicity.
  5. Support victims of racist prejudice, discrimination, and violence.  As I wrote the first suggestion, I realized that there are so many concerns that one may have in directly challenging racist actions.  But, there are fewer concerns regarding harm in supporting victims of these actions.  Though your supervisor who unfairly fired your Latina coworker very well could threaten you, as well, you are freer to reach out to your coworker.  See if she wants to talk, needs help finding a new job, or even filing a discrimination or EEO complaint.  Even outside of severe instances of racist acts, you can be a supportive ally by really hearing people out when they reveal their experiences to you (rather than blaming them or encouraging them to think of alternative reasons for those acts).
  6. Challenge racist practices of organizations and institutions.  Though the days of overt racist laws and policies are mostly gone, there are still many — albeit neutral in intention and language — that disproportionately harm people of color.  It is important to challenge these, just as it is to challenge racism at the individual-level.  Maybe you can speak up if your workplace implements a dress-code policy that unfairly targets racial and ethnic minorities.  Take action to prevent the efforts to repeal Affirmative Action and other policies that aim to redress racial inequality.  Educate yourself and others about how new policies or policy change can contribute to racial equality, even if they are not targeted solely toward people of color (e.g., Affordable Care Act).

Concluding Thoughts

Obviously, everyone cannot become leaders of social movements like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or lead deadly anti-racist efforts like abolitionist John Brown or the slain Mississippi civil rights workers.  Most of us are not lifelong activists.

But, there are many opportunities throughout a given day to make a difference, no matter how small.  For, even small acts add up to a big contribution to challenge prejudice and stereotypes, educate oneself and others, end racist discrimination and violence, and promote racial diversity and equality.  Just as we are all implicated in racism, it will take all of us to end it.

How To Support A Scholar Who Has Come Under Attack

Thank A Public Scholar

Academics, can we talk seriously about social media for a moment?  Like much of the rest of the world, we use various social media platforms.  Some of us use it strictly for personal reasons, some exclusively to share our scholarly work and perspective, and others for a mixture of these reasons.  I have witnessed enough attacks on scholars by conservatives, bigots, trolls, and even other academics to conclude that no one is shielded from backlash.  While our academic freedom is generally protected (though, that statement is debatable), we can no longer expect our colleagues, departments, universities, disciplines, and professional organizations to stand up for us when we come under attack.

The Times (And Attacks) Have Changed

The rules of engagement have changed.  We now live in a time when a 20-year-old college sophomore, who writes for a student newspaper to expose “liberal bias and abuses at Texas colleges” (see bio at end), can spark a national conservative assault on a tenure-track professor at a different university over a few tweets critiquing racism.  (They believe, however, that they are somehow protecting innocent, uneducated laypeople from the evils of brainy, radical professors in the liberal ivory tower.)

Make her a thing

Indeed, this conservative student reporter did make Dr. Zandria F. Robinson “a thing” — both in the sense of a trend of attacking her, her appearance, her politics, her identity, and her research, and by making her an object of a larger, calculated conservative attack on critical and public scholars.  With a mere tweet to the president of University of Memphis, this student reporter influenced an internal investigation on Dr. Robinson. Though unsuccessful with the first assault, the site along with another conservative college student site launched a second attack that caught the attention of national conservative media.


In essence, conservatives found success in launching a national assault on the scholarship and character of Dr. Saida Grundy, and were using the formula a second time on Dr. Robinson.  They got their first taste of blood in not only dragging Dr. Grundy’s name and reputation through the mud, but also in influencing her university’s president to issue a statement essentially calling her a racist for critiquing racism.  U Memphis never formally sanctioned or criticized Dr. Robinson, but their vague tweet disclosing her departure from the university is suspect — perhaps a passive way of quieting the conservatives who demanded her termination.  (Fortunately, Dr. Robison had the last word.)

Memphis Tweet

I was pleasantly surprised to see Dr. Robinson’s new academic home, Rhodes College, issued a statement to the press that not only sung her praises but affirmed her expertise and scholarship.

Dr. Robinson was hired for a faculty position in the Rhodes Anthropology & Sociology Department that calls for expertise in particular areas, specifically gender studies and social movements. Her expertise in these areas, her extensive understanding of the complex problems of race in American society, her deep roots in the Memphis area, and many years of successful teaching experience, made her an attractive candidate for the position…Dr. Robinson has an extensive and impressive body of scholarship that provides clarity and context to the sound bite world of social media. This situation ultimately shines a light on Rhodes as a place where intellectual engagement and the exchange of ideas are among our highest priorities.

For once, this wasn’t a passive commitment to tolerate a controversial scholar’s academic freedom; this was a proactive statement to say, “she knows what she’s talking about, so please take several seats.”

But, I worry Rhodes may be an outlier here.  And, I am not entirely optimistic Rhodes would defend every scholar who comes under attack.  Though I have been informally supported at my own institution, I’m not confident that I would be defended if donors threatened to withhold their financial support if I weren’t fired.  Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, an expert on academic institutions, penned an excellent essay that substantiates my doubt:

What I really wanted to point out is how yet again we have an example of how woefully underprepared universities are to deal with the reality of public scholarship, public intellectuals, or public engagement.  In this age of affective economies of attention, weak ties can turn a mild grievance into something that feels like political action. In this moment we should call for institutions to state explicitly what they owe those who venture into public waters… Basically, the scale of current media is so beyond anything academia can grasp that those with agendas get a leg up on pulling the levers of universities’ inherent conservativism.

Simply put, academia is behind the times.  And, there’s far too much academic cowardice, rather than academic bravery, to entrust our protection to our universities.  Controversy — the very thing that academic freedom is designed to protect us against (professionally) — is feared rather than embraced.  What’s worse is that these attacks coincide with, or have even been made possible by, the decline of labor rights and protections for academics.  Dr. Adia Harvey Wingfield argued this in an insightful essay, Canaries in the Coal Mine? Saida Grundy, Zandria F. Robinson, and Why Calls for their Firing are a Problem for Everyone”:

As more institutions adopt a market-based model where students are consumers, teaching is pushed off onto poorly paid adjunct professors, and administrative bloat runs rampant, the conditions that tenure track faculty have enjoyed—and that have allowed us to do our best work—are becoming increasingly weaker. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has moved to weaken tenure at state colleges and universities (with predictably bad results as noted faculty leave the flagship University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for less hostile climates). In this type of environment, it’s not really a wonder that faculty are at risk not for their scholarship, or their teaching, but because they made public statements that generated outcry and controversy.


Like other employees in an increasingly neoliberal environment, academics are facing growing job insecurity and precariousness that stands to weaken and minimize the ways our jobs should allow us to contribute to understanding a changing society. If, as I suspect, Grundy and Robinson are just early indicators of what’s to come for all of us, then we should all be very concerned.

In this context, besides the real professional risks, we are also largely on our own to weather trolls, harassment, rape threats, death threats, and hate mail.  And, that goes for those who are relatively uncensored and those who think they maintain their public presence the “right” way.  Indeed, you don’t even have to engage the public outside of your classroom to find yourself under attack.

But, let’s be clear: the pattern of attacks on scholars appears to suggest that people of color, women, and other scholars of marginalized backgrounds are most vulnerable to these attacks.  Women of color who publicly write about racism and white privilege seem to be overrepresented among the targets of these witch hunts for critical and public scholars.  Academia continues to change around us.  We can no longer bury our heads in the sand, telling ourselves our only goal is to “publish or perish.”  There may not be a decent job left within which we can publish on the topics of our own interests and passions.

Supporting Scholars Who Come Under Attack

I have come across a fair amount of advice for targets of online (and off-line) harassment, and even offered my own.  See Dr. Rebecca Schuman’s reflections on dealing with trolls, “Me & My Trolls: A Love Story” and “The Thickness of My Skin.” And, Joshunda Sanders’s, “Up to here with trolls? Tips for navigating online drama.” Also, see the science about online trolls [video], and a cute musical response to trolls [video].

But, I have not seen any advice for others to support scholars who come under attack.  So, with what little experience I have, I’m proposing my own approach.  In my proposed strategy, I draw from bystander intervention work, primarily used to prevent sexual violence and support victims of such violence.  In the recent past, I created a report for a local rape crisis center/domestic violence shelter on existing bystander intervention curricula [PDF].  I wrote about bystander intervention for sexual violence when I blogged for the Kinsey Institute.  And, I have written about using bystander intervention to fight racism and support victims of racism — a blog post that has been used as a major theme for an anti-racist group in Tennessee.  I hesitate to claim expertise here, but I have referenced or heavily used the bystander intervention model enough to feel comfortable using it here.

Briefly, the bystander intervention model calls for others who are present for some problem or emergency situation to intervene in some way.  The language of “bystanders” comes from the concept of the bystander effect, wherein witnesses to some crisis are less and less likely to intervene with more and more witnesses present.  If you are the only bystander present, you are quite likely to help if possible; if you are one of one hundred people, the odds are extremely slim that you’ll do anything besides mind your business.  Bystander intervention explicitly counters this tendency, instead demanding that bystanders intervene in whatever way possible.  And, for social problems like sexual violence and racism, this approach conceptualizes of the problem as a community’s responsibility.  To eliminate sexual violence, we are all responsible for fighting rape culture: challenging sexist jokes and comments; challenging victim-blaming; teaching and practicing sexual consent; intervening when we see sexual violence occurring; demanding justice for victims of sexual violence; and, so forth.

I want to apply bystander intervention, then, to supporting scholars who are targeted by bigots, trolls, conservatives, and hostile colleagues.  First, we must conceptualize such attacks as a larger problem, one which affects all of us in some way, and which we are all responsible for addressing. A culmination of factors — the absence of academic freedom policies that reflect the existence and scholars’ use of social media, the decline of labor rights and protections in academia, ongoing conservative attacks on higher education (even tenure) — have produced an increasingly easy route to target and then take down public and critical scholars.  And, these forces exist within the larger intersections of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and other systems of oppression, thus making marginalized scholars the most vulnerable to attack and the subsequent inaction of academic institutions and organizations.

As a social problem (at least among academics), it is thus our responsibility as a broad academic community to counter these attacks and support the victims of these attacks.  This community responsibility exists at multiple levels, ranging from small acts to large policy changes.

Source: Dahlberg, L.L., & Krug, E.G. (2002). Violence – a global public health problem. In: E.G. Krug, L.L. Dahlberg, J.A. Mercy, A.B. Zwi, & R. Lozano (Eds.), World Report on Violence and Health (pp. 3-21). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

Source: Dahlberg, Linda, and Etienne Krug. 2002. ” Violence – A Global Public Health Problem.”  Pp. 3-21 in World Report on Violence and Health, edited by E.G. Krug, L.L. Dahlberg, J.A. Mercy, A.B. Zwi, and R. Lozano. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

A Bystander Intervention Approach To Support Attacked Scholars

We could adapt the above social-ecological model to fit academia, which should include the following levels: individual; department; university; discipline; and, the profession.  Below, I offer specific ways to support scholars who are attacked, drawing from my own experiences and suggestions offered by colleagues on Twitter and Facebook (including those who have been subjected to attacks themselves).  Please, offer additional suggestions in the comments section.

Individual-Level Strategies

  • Assume that the targeted scholar is already aware of the attack against them.  While well-intentioned, “hey did you see this awful thing about you!” can do more harm than good, potentially re-triggering their negative response to the attack.  I also recommend not tagging the targeted scholar on social media if and when you share links from the attack or stories about the attack.  Unlike social media platforms such as Twitter, we have a choice over who we connect with on Facebook; don’t threaten one’s safe space/chosen community by bringing in the external attacks.
  • Offer to take over keeping up with what is written about the targeted scholar so that they do not have to.  Only inform them of positive responses and anything else that seems important; don’t let them know about the negative responses.
  • Make an informed decision about whether to point out the attack to others.  On the one hand, raising awareness and calling others to arms is useful to prevent a situation in which the attacked scholars is on her own to defend and support herself.  We certainly can stand to be more aware of these attacks, to whom they are happening, and why they occur.  But, on the other hand, you might empower the attackers more by giving their attack more attention and readership.  In some cases, simply not feeding a troll could be effective in containing the situation.
  • If you decide to raise awareness about an attack, be mindful that some colleagues (especially department colleagues and administrators at the targeted scholar’s institution) may be prompted to act in a way that harms the targeted scholar.  You don’t want to be responsible for initiating professional consequences against the targeted scholar in your effort to support them.
  • If you see that a colleague has come under attack, simply ask what they need and extend an offer of support.  At a minimum, this is a reminder to the attacked scholar that they are not alone.  I can say, from personal experience, sitting alone with only nasty and bigoted comments from strangers can feel very isolating; if the attacks are persistent, one might even begin to question whether their attackers’ claims are true.
  • Say something more helpful or useful than “you must be doing something right!”  Weathering an attack is already psychologically taxing enough; asking the targeted scholar to trick their mind into seeing the attacks and threats as a compliment isn’t helpful in the moment.  It’s hard to appreciate the supposed badge of honor that is digging deep into your skin and drawing blood.
  • Don’t say “just ignore it” or “just turn off the computer.”  We live in an age where our online interactions are a real part of our lives.  It’s not as simple as pretending the attack doesn’t exist when you turn the computer off.  And, the professional consequences are real.
  • Counter the attack with supportive notes and messages.  Express your appreciation of the scholars’ efforts and their bravery for being a public voice.  Start a campaign to encourage other friends and colleagues to send the targeted scholar kind notes and thanks.  Or, take a moment to thank them using the #ThankAPublicScholar hashtag on Twitter.
  • If you have been subjected to an attack in the past, reach out to an attacked scholar to let them know you have gone through it and that they are not alone.  Offer advice for the best ways to weather the attack.
  • Defend the attacked scholar.  This can be as small as reporting offensive content from their attackers on social media or as big as writing your own blog post or op-ed to affirm the targeted scholar.  Take screen shots of offensive comments as evidence.  Fight the attackers’ ignorance with research if they get the targeted scholars’ words/scholarship twisted.  If you can stomach it, contribute to the comments section to say you agree with, or at least appreciate, the scholars’ writing.  (Note: These efforts may open you up to being attacked, too.  I’m still blocking trolls who are giving me grief on Twitter for defending Dr. Zandria F. Robinson.  And, there’s foolishness.)
  • If an attacked scholar is harmed professionally — whether as minor as public sanctioning or as severe as termination — hold the institution accountable for protecting academic freedom.  Start a petition.  Employ the advice and services of AAUP and other professional organizations.  Perhaps suggest that the targeted scholar seek legal counsel, and help them raise money if they cannot afford to.
  • Challenge colleagues’ comments that blame attacked scholars for their own attacks.  I have seen and heard scholars rationalize recent attacks, attributing blame to the targets because they used social media in a certain way, spoke/wrote in a certain tone, failed to give broader context and offer citations within the limits of a 140-character tweet, and so on.  “They knew the risks!”  I’ve even seen discussions that offer no sympathy for targets because they weren’t really engaging in public scholarship — just “popping off.”  These sentiments suggest that there is a right way and a wrong way to engage the public. Even scholars who write more extensive op-eds, explicitly backed by research, have come under attack.  As I argued in the previous section, these attacks reflect calculated assaults on higher education, liberalism, people of color, and women; and, we are all increasingly vulnerable as higher education becomes more corporatized and relies heavily on a poorly paid pool of adjunct laborers.  If we conclude that the only safe way to avoid being targeted is to stop engaging the public and delete our social media accounts, we are deluding ourselves into thinking that silence will protect us.  We do too little to make academia accessible, anyhow; we would only be making matters worse if we self-silence.

Department and University Level Strategies

  • If the targeted scholar is receiving death threats, threats of sexual violence, and/or hate mail, contact campus (and perhaps local) police to investigate and offer a police escort.  You or the police should take over checking your colleagues’ mail and answering their phone.  Even if you don’t agree with their actions or comments, there is no excuse for leaving them vulnerable to physical, mental, or sexual violence.
  • When a colleague has come under attack, fight fire with fire — pressure your department and/or university to issue a public statement defending your colleague and affirming their expertise and valueDo not take Boston University’s approach, which suggested they tolerate Dr. Saida Grundy’s academic freedom, and also called her a racist and a bigot — in a statement that “denounces” her “racially charged tweets.”  It would have been better for BU to say nothing at all because it only fueled her attackers’ taste for blood.  DO take Rhodes College’s approach, which clarified Dr. Zandria F. Robinson’s expertise, affirmed that her tweets and blog posts are backed by her expertise, and explicitly stated her value to the institution.
  • When people from outside of the university target a professor and demand their termination (or worse), do not readily accept their claims at face value.  Use your critical skills as a scholar to assess the significance, source, and validity of these claims.  I recommend being particularly suspicious of claims that a (minority) professor has somehow harmed a privileged group (e.g., whites, men, heterosexuals, middle-class and wealthy people).  Stand firm in the distinction between public statements backed by research, especially that are critical of the status quo and inequality, and proclamations based solely on personal opinion.  Remember that the public isn’t necessarily ready to hear what scholars have to say — and that’s no reason to panic.  (How often do we encounter our own students’ [and even colleagues’] discomfort when we challenge their worldviews?)
  • Demand that your university and, if relevant, your department, establish guidelines for academic freedom that reflect today’s forms of public scholarship and means of communicating with the public.  Drawn on existing AAUP materials on academic freedom and social media.  To be clear, I am suggesting that academic freedom policies include explicit protections for scholars’ use of social media, among other forms of engaging the public — not setting limits on what is considered “responsible” social media use like University of Kansas’s controversial policy.  The major problem with KU’s policy is a stipulation that social media use that “is contrary to the best interests of the employer” may be grounds for termination.  As universities have come more corporatized, it seems the quickest way to have a professor sanctioned or fired is to threaten the university’s bank account (i.e., donors’ financial contributions).  In this vein, think about who has the most means to donate to a university; people of color (among other marginalized groups) will never have the same level of power to pressure a university to sanction/fire a controversial white professor.  So, the power of the purse in academia will always loom larger for marginalized scholars.
  • Related to the point above, demand that the university institute a formal means of lodging complains of inappropriate or offensive use of social media or other engagements with the public.  (There is no reason why a university president should be taking requests from students, with a known agenda to target presumably liberal professors, to investigate one of their faculty — especially via Twitter.)  Just as any internal offense (such as sexual harassment, academic dishonesty) must be officially reported before any action is taken, external charges, if investigated and acted upon, should first be formally reported with proper evidence.
  • Pressure your university to employ lawyers who will aggressively fight on behalf of scholars’ academic freedom.  (Several academics have speculated that BU’s public statement about sanction of Dr. Grundy was written by cowardly lawyers who looked to protect the university, not her.)
  • Demand that your department and/or university value community service (not just academic service) and public scholarship.  Here, I explicitly mean that these efforts count in hiring, tenure, promotion, and pay raises.  When university administrators praise or even demand public service, hold them accountable for actually counting and rewarding these efforts — and matching these rewards with professional protections against any backlash.
  • Challenge the academic culture that demands that you “keep your head down” and “keep your mouth shut.”  Question the implicit assumption underlying this advice that scholars, particularly at the junior level, will be reckless and irresponsible with regard to department and university politics, and engaging with the public.  In light of the few rewards and great risks entailed in serving the community and engaging the public, these efforts should be rewarded, not punished or kept quiet.
  • If you work in a graduate department, advocate for explicitly discussing academic freedom and public scholarship with graduate students — perhaps make these discussions a regular part of a professional seminar, preparing future faculty programs, or some other form of mandatory professional socialization.  Also, discuss the changing nature of higher education: the decline of tenure-track positions, the increase in student debt, the decline in state funding, and the corporatization of universities.
  • Train your graduate students how to effectively and safely use social media and work with the media.
  • Rather than attempt to “beat the activist” out of your graduate students, recognize that activism or, at least a desire to make a difference, is what drives many people into graduate school and academia (especially those from marginalized backgrounds).  Find ways to harness this passion in your graduate students’ careers.

Discipline And Profession Level Strategies

  • Demand that your professional organizations, especially those to which you pay dues, actively defend scholars who come under attack.  This can entail issuing public statements and press releases in their defense, offering financial support and help finding new employment for those who are unexpectedly fired, and offering access to legal counsel if necessary.   (Sociologists, as far as I know, ASA only intervenes when scholars have been fired by their universities — and, even then, it may not be to defend them.  The rest of us are on our own.)
  • Create resources to support and build community among public scholars.
  • Host conferences on academic freedom, public scholarship, and intellectual activism, with at least some focus on the inherent risks of engaging the public.
  • Host conference workshops on using social media and working with the media.
  • Work to reverse the adjunctification of higher education.
  • Demand that your local and state politicians stop making efforts to undermine academic freedom (including tenure), and start making more efforts to protect it.

UPDATE [7-9-2015, 4:27pm EST]: I have been informed of two additional resources that are relevant to this post.  One is a map of threats to academic freedom and other barriers in academia in the US: “Scholars Under Attack.”  Another is a well-written essay by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, “‘Who Do You Think You Are?’: When Marginality Meets Academic Microcelebrity.”


[For a downloadable version of my curriculum vita, please click here.]

Eric Grollman, Ph.D.
(Pronouns: they/them/theirs)


Affiliate Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2022-present

Contractor, TMI Consulting, Inc. 2022-present

Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Richmond,  2019-2022

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Richmond, 2013-2019

Affiliate Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2017-2018


Doctor of Philosophy, Sociology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 2013
Qualifying Exam: Social Psychology
Graduate Minor: Social Science Research Methods

Masters of Arts, Sociology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 2009

Bachelors of Arts, Sociology and Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, 2007
Certificate: Gender and Women’s Studies


Diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; Scholar-activism; Prejudice and discrimination; LGBTQ studies; Transgender studies; Sex and gender; Race, gender, and class; and, Health and illness


Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Bertin Louis Jr. Forthcoming. Conditionally Accepted: Navigating Higher Education from the Margins. (Under contract with University of Texas Press.)

Sumerau, J. E., and Eric Anthony Grollman. 2020. Black Lives and Bathrooms: Racial and Gendered Reactions to Minority Rights Movements. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Whitaker, Manya, and Eric Anthony Grollman. 2019. Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics: Bravery, Vulnerability, and Resistance. New York, NY: Routledge. [See my blog post summary.]


Sumerau, J. E., TehQuin Forbes, Eric Anthony Grollman, Lain A. B. Mathers. 2021. “Constructing Allyship and the Persistence of Inequality.” Social Problems 68(2): 358-373. doi: 10.1093/socpro/spaa003.

Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Nao Hagiwara. 2019. “‘Discrimination’ Vs. ‘Unfair Treatment’: Measuring Differential Treatment and Its Association with Health.” Sociological Inquiry 89(4): 645-676. doi: 10.1111/soin.12277.

Hagiwara, Nao, Eric Anthony Grollman, and Tiffany L. Green. 2019. “Experiences of Discrimination And Sexual Behaviors: An Examination of Motives as Potential Psychological Mediators.” International Journal of Sexual Health 31(2): 115-130. doi: 10.1080/19317611.2019.1583299

Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2019. “Americans’ Gender Attitudes at the Intersection of Sexual Orientation and Gender.” Journal of Homosexuality 66(2): 141-172. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2017.1398022.

Sumerau, J. E., and Eric Anthony Grollman. 2018 “Obscuring Oppression: Racism, Cissexism and the Persistence of Social Inequality.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 4(3): 322-337. doi: 10.1177/2332649218755179.

Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2018. “Sexual Orientation Differences in Whites’ Racial Attitudes.” Sociological Forum 33(1): 186-210. doi: 10.1111/socf.12405.

Sumerau, J. E., Eric Anthony Grollman, and Ryan Cragun. 2018. “‘Oh My God, I Sound Like a Horrible Person’: Generic Processes in the Conditional Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity.” Symbolic Interaction 41(1): 62-82. doi: 10.1002/symb.326. [PDF]

Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Nao Hagiwara. 2017. “Measuring Self-Reported Discrimination: Trends in Question Wording Used in Publicly Accessible Datasets.” Social Currents 4(4): 287-305. doi: 10.1177/2329496517704875.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2017.  “Sexual Health and Multiple Forms of Discrimination Among Heterosexual Youth.”  Social Problems 64(1): 156-75. doi: 10.1093/socpro/spw031.  [Video abstract: “‘The Authors’ Attic’ with Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman“]

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2017.  “Sexual Orientation Differences in Attitudes About Sexuality, Race, and Gender.” Social Science Research 61: 126-41. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2016.05.002.

Miller, Lisa R., and Eric Anthony Grollman.  2015.  “The Social Costs of Gender Non-Conformity for Transgender Adults: Implications for Discrimination and Health.”  Sociological Forum 30(3): 809-831. doi: 10.1111/socf.12193.  [PDF]

Meyer, Doug, and Eric Anthony Grollman.  2014.  “Sexual Orientation and Fear at Night: Gender Differences among Sexual Minorities and Heterosexuals.”  Journal of Homosexuality 61(4): 453-470. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2013.834212.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2014.  “Multiple Disadvantaged Statuses and Health: The Role of Multiple Dimensions of Discrimination.”  Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55(1): 3-19. doi: 10.1177/0022146514521215.  [Online supplement]

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2012.  “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults.”  Journal of Health and Social Behavior 53(2): 199-214. doi: 10.1177/0022146512444289. [Online supplement]

Lottes, Ilsa L., and Eric Anthony Grollman. 2010. “Conceptualization and Assessment of Homonegativity.” International Journal of Sexual Health 22(4): 219-33. doi: 10.1080/19317611.2010.489358.


Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2019. “Afterword.” Pp. 226-234 in Narratives of Marginalized Identities in Higher Education: Inside and Outside the Academy, edited by S. Khadka, J. Davis-McElligatt, and K. Dorwick. New York, NY: Routledge.

Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2018. “Black, Queer, and Beaten: On the Trauma of Graduate School.” Pp. 159-171 in Negotiating the Emotional Challenges of Conducting Deeply Personal Research in Health, edited by A. C. H. Nowakowski and J. E. Sumerau. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2014. “Sexual Harassment Is About Power, Not Desire.”  Pp. 24-29 in Sexual Harassment: Issues that Concern You, edited by A. Gillard. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2008. “Old-Fashioned and Modern Homonegativity within an American College Student Sample.” UMBC Review: Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works 9: 76-101.


Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Laurel Westbrook. 2017. “Promoting Transgender Justice through Sociology.” Footnotes (newsletter of the American Sociological Association) 45(3): 12.

Interview with Lisa R. Miller and Eric Anthony Grollman, Scholars Strategy Network. 2017. “How Discrimination Harms Health” (regarding transgender health). No Jargon [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/podcast/how-discrimination-hurts.

Miller, Lisa R., and Eric Anthony Grollman.  2016.  “Discrimination as an Obstacle to the Wellbeing of Transgender Americans.”  SSN Key Findings, Scholars Strategy Network.

Talley, Heather Laine. 2015. “Embracing the Academic Margins: An Interview with Eric Anthony Grollman.” Feminist Teacher 25: 189-94.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2014.  “How Discrimination Hurts Health and Personal Wellbeing.” SSN Key Findings, Scholars Strategy Network.  [Also on The Society Pages]

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2013.  “Blogging for (A) Change.”  Remarks, Newsletter for the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, American Sociological Association.

Culatta, Elizabeth, Daniel B. Shank, Eric Anthony Grollman, and Alec Watts. 2012.  “Social Psychology Graduate Student Advisory Report on a Survey of Student Members.”  Graduate Student Advisory Committee, Section on Social Psychology, American Sociology Association.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2010.  Bystander Intervention Curriculum.  A report on sexual violence prevention curricula for Middle Way House, Bloomington, IN.


Summer Research Fellowship, University of Richmond, 2020

Summer Research Fellowship, University of Richmond, 2018

Summer Research Fellowship, University of Richmond, 2017

Summer Research Fellowship, University of Richmond, 2016

SAGE Teaching Innovations & Professional Development Award: stipend to attend American Sociological Association Teaching and Learning Preconference,  2013

Lee Student Support Fund, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2011

Ford Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship, 2010-2013

Summer Research Fellowship, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2010

Diversity Fellows Program, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, 2010
Received stipend, university housing, and travel allowance to teach Sociology of Sexuality

Lee Student Support Fund, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2009

Schuessler Scholarship for Study at ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods, Indiana University, 2009

Summer Research Fellowship, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2009

Graduate Fellowship, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2007-2012


Course Transformation Grant ($3,000) to develop new course, “Medical Sociology,” Program for Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness, University of Richmond, 2014

National Sexuality Resource Center grant ($2,000) to start a Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy chapter at Indiana University, 2008


Faculty Ally of the Year (for LGBTQ students), Office of Common Ground, University of Richmond, 2016

Best Dissertation Award, Section on Mental Health, American Sociological Association, 2014; for, “The Continuing Significance of Discrimination: Multiple Forms of Discrimination and Health”

Karl F. Schuessler Award for Graduate Research, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2012; for “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults”

1st Place Graduate Student Paper Competition Award, Midwest Sociological Society, 2012; for “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults”

Outstanding Graduate Student Mentor Award, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2011

3rd Place Graduate Student Paper Competition Award, North Central Sociological Association, 2011; for “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults”

Nominee, Distinguished Thesis Award, Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, 2010

Phi Beta Kappa Society, 2007

Omicron Delta Kappa, National Leadership Honor Society, 2007

Alpha Kappa Delta, National Collegiate Honor Society for Sociology, 2006

Psi Chi National Honor Society in Psychology, 2006

The Golden Key International Honour Society, 2005

Peace & Justice Award, Washington Peace Center, Washington, DC, 2005


Panelist, “Brave Women of Color in Academics,” cosponsored by the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, & Sexuality (GCWS), Boston College, MIT, Tufts, Boston University, and University of Massachusetts Boston, 2020

Co-facilitator, “Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics: A Working Lunch,” Boston University, 2020

Panelist, “Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics,” Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, 2020 [see news article write-up here]

Co-facilitator, “Empowering Ourselves as Women of Color” Tacoma Community College, Tacoma, WA, 2020

Co-facilitator, “Thriving in Academe: Counternarratives from Women of Color: Bravery, Vulnerability, and Resistance,” University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA, 2020

Panelist, “Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics: A Public Dialogue,” University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 2019

Co-facilitator, “Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics” workshop for graduate students, post-docs, and faculty, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 2019

Co-facilitator, “Brave Conversations for Women of Color Academics” workshop, Winston-Salem State University and Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, 2019

Panelist, “Being a Culturally Conscious Leader,” Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, 2019

Invited speaker “Becoming an Intellectual Activist,” Washington College, Chestertown, MD, 2019

Keynote speaker, “A Call for Academic Justice,” Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD), University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, 2019 [See UMBC Magazine interview]

Panelist, “Counternarratives from Women of Color Academics,” University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, 2019

Panelist, “Women of Color in the Academy: Mentoring, Leading, and Thriving,” University of North Texas, Denton, TX, 2019 [See more about contributors from UNT’s La Colectiva peer mentoring group here]

Panelist, “Stories of Academic Bravery and Resilience,” James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, 2019

Panelist, “Counternarratives: A Conversation about Faculty Peer-Mentoring,” James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, 2019

Panelist, “Celebrating Women of Color Academics: Dialogue and Community-Building,” Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 2019

Panelist, “Celebrating Brave Women of Color Academics,” Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA, 2019

Invited speaker, “On Becoming an Intellectual Activist,” Duke University, Durham, NC, 2017

Keynote speaker, “Blogging for (a) Change in Higher Education,” Media Sociology Pre-conference, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 2016

Invited speaker, “Blogging for (a) Change in Higher Education,” Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, 2016

Panelist, Intellectual Activism in 21st Century America: Ethics, Technology, and Constraints, Parren Mitchell Symposium on Intellectual Activism, Social Justice & Criminalization, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 2015 [available online here]

Panelist, “How I Became an Intellectual Activist,” Conference of Ford Fellows, Washington, DC, 2015

Keynote speaker, Sociology/Anthropology Student Ceremony, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA 2014

Panelist, “Open Scholarship as Intellectual Activismpanel on open scholarship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 2014


“Celebrating Brave Women of Color Academics,” National Women’s Studies Association annual conference, San Francisco, CA, 2019

“Sexual Orientation Differences in Women’s and Men’s Gender Attitudes,” American Sociological Association annual meeting, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2017

“Sexual Orientation Differences in Attitudes About Sexuality, Race, and Gender,” Sociologists for Women in Society winter meeting, Memphis, TN, 2016

“Measuring Discrimination: ‘Discrimination’ versus ‘Unfair Treatment’ Question Wording and Health,”  Southern Sociological Society annual meeting, New Orleans, LA, 2015

“Sexual Health and Interpersonal Discrimination among Heterosexual Youth,” American Sociological Association annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2014

“Multiple Disadvantaged Statuses and Health: The Role of Multiple Dimensions of Discrimination,”  American Sociological Association annual meeting, New York, NY, 2013

“The Social Costs of Gender Non-Conformity for Transpeople: Implications for Discrimination and Health-Harming Behaviors,” American Sociological Association annual meeting, Denver, CO, 2012 (with Lisa R. Miller)

“Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health Among Adolescents and Youth,” American Sociological Association annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, 2011

“Anti-LGBTQ Bullying and Harassment: Renewed Attention to an Old Problem,” introduction for the special session, Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, 2011

“Traditional and Modern Homonegativity Among Undergraduate Students,” The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality annual meeting, Indianapolis, IN, 2007


Summer Institute in LGBT Population Health, The Fenway Institute & Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, 2011

Summer Program in Quantitative Methods, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2009

Summer Institute on Sexuality, Education, and Politics, National Sexuality Resource Center, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, 2008

Primer on Empirical Research on Sexual Orientation, The Williams Institute, University of California Los Angeles School of Law, Los Angeles, CA, 2008


Teaching and Learning Workshop, Associated Colleges of the South, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, 2014

Teaching and Learning Pre-conference, American Sociological Association, New York, NY, 2013


Professor, University of Richmond (2013-2022)

  • Foundations of Society: Introduction to Sociological Analysis (Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020)
  • Sociological Research Methods (Fall 2013-Fall 2015, Fall 2018-Spring 2020, Spring 2021)
  • Social Inequalities (Spring 2014, Spring 2018, and Spring 2020)
  • Sociology of Gender and Sexuality (Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2021)
  • Sociology of Health and Illness (Fall 2014, Spring 2016, and Spring 2018)
  • Sociology of Sexualities (Spring 2019)

Diversity Fellow Lecturer, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (2010)

  • Sociology of Sexuality (Summer 2010)

Associate Instructor, Indiana University (2009-2010)

  • Field Experience in Sociology (Spring 2010)
  • Sexual Diversity (Fall 2009 and Spring 2010)

Graduate Teaching Assistant, Indiana University (2007-2009)

  • Social Psychology (Spring 2009)
  • Gender Roles (Spring 2008, Fall 2008)
  • Introduction to Sociology (Fall 2007)

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Maryland Baltimore County (2007)

  • Sexuality, Health, and Human Rights (Spring 2007)



Reviewer (journals): American Journal of Sociology, Gender & Society, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Society and Mental Health, Social Problems, Population Research and Policy Review, The Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Perspectives, Journal of Adolescence, Journal of Family IssuesEthnic and Racial Studies, and Journal of Homosexuality.

Session organizer and panelist, “Celebrating Brave Women of Color Academics,” National Women’s Studies Association annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2019

Faculty Mentor, Sociologists for Trans Justice Mentoring Program, 2018-2019

Panelist, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Sociology? An Open Discussion town hall, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA, 2018

Co-organizer, Sociologists for Trans Justice forum, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA, 2018

Organizer, #MeTooPhD: Addressing Sexual Violence in and through Sociology, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA, 2018

Co-organizer, Sociologists Against Sexual Violence forum, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA, 2018

Co-organizer, #MeTooPhD: Fighting Sexual Violence as Sexualities Scholars working lunch activity, American Sociological Association Section on Sexualities Preconference, Philadelphia, PA, 2018

Regular Contributor, “Conditionally Accepted” — a career advice column for scholars on the margins of academia at Inside Higher Ed, 2018-2019

Co-organizer and Panelist, Protecting Public Scholars from Backlash, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2017

Co-organizer, Sociologists for Trans Justice forum, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2017

Panelist, Beyond the Ivory Tower: Combining Social Theory with Politics and Service, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2017

Mentor, American Sociological Association Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities (SREM), 2016-2017

Organizer, Medical Sociology regular session, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 2016

Co-organizer, Sociologists for Trans Justice forum, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 2016

Co-organizer, Sociologists for Justice forum on racial justice, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 2016

Panelist, All My Friends Are Stressed: Mental Health, Social Support, and Self-Care in Graduate School, American Sociological Association annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 2016

Founder and Co-chair, Sociologists for Trans Justice, 2016-2018

Organizer and Panelist, Intellectual Activism: Protecting Scholars from Public Backlash and Professional Harm, Sociologists for Women in Society winter meeting, Memphis, TN, 2016

Editor and Blogger, “Conditionally Accepted” — a career advice column for scholars on the margins of academia at Inside Higher Ed, 2016-2017

Editorial Board Member, Contexts journal, 2015-2017

Publications Committee Member, Section on Sex and Gender, American Sociological Association annual meeting, 2014-2015

Council Member, Section on Sexualities, American Sociological Association annual meeting, 2014-2017

Grant reviewer, Northern Illinois University Division of Research and Graduate Studies, 2014

Panelist, Professional Development Workshop, Using Social Media as a Professional Development Tool, American Sociological Association annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2014

Panelist, Professional Development Workshop, Navigating Queer Identities in the Department and Classroom, American Sociological Association annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2014

Roundtable Presider, Sexualities and Health, Section on Medical Sociology, American Sociological Association annual meeting, New York City, New York, 2013

Roundtable Presider, Gender and Society, Honors Program, American Sociological Association annual meeting, New York City, New York, 2013

Founder, Editor, and Blogger, ConditionallyAccepted.com – an online space for scholars on the margins of academia, 2013-2017

Session Organizer, Sociology of Prejudice and Discrimination, Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting, Chicago, IL, 2013

Session Organizer, LGBT Health, Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting, Minneapolis, MN, 2012

Member, Ad-Hoc Graduate Student Advisory Committee, Section on Social Psychology, American Sociological Association, 2011-2012

Graduate Student Representative, Section on Sexualities, American Sociological Association, 2011-2012

Discussant, Social Reactions to Mental Illness: The Continued Relevance of Stigma and Social Control, Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, 2011

Session Organizer, Anti-LGBTQ Bullying and Violence, Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, 2011

Newsletter Editor, Sexual Behavior, Politics, and Communities Division, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2010-2011

Session Organizer, Sexualities, Race, and Ethnicity, Midwest Sociological Society and North Central Sociological Association joint meeting, Chicago, IL, 2010

Blogger, KinseyConfidential.org, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, 2009-2013


University of Richmond (2013-2022)

Member, Interpersonal Wellness Advisory Committee, 2020

Planning Committee Member, Critical Race Connect symposium, 2020 [canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic closures]

Member, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Advisory Board, 2019-2022

Panelist, Celebrating Brave Women of Color Academics, 2019

Panelist, Got Voice? Town Hall Meeting on Freedom of Expression, Cosponsored by the Office of the President, University Faculty Senate, and Westhampton and Richmond College Student Governments, 2019 [Campus news coverage]

Panelist, Getting it Right: Confronting the Realities of Sexual Harassment, Assault, and Rape, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, 2018

Search Committee Member for Associate Director of LGBTQ Campus Life, Office of Common Ground, 2016

Co-Facilitator, enVision: A Social Justice Leadership Retreat, 2015

Co-Facilitator, From Ferguson to Charleston: A Racial Justice Forum, 2015

Co-Facilitator, Ferguson: A Community Dialogue, 2015

Advisory Group Member, Terms of Racial Justice, 2013-2016

Indiana University (2007-2013)

Resource Compilation Subgroup Co-Chair, Mental Health Working Group, 2011

Member, Mental Health Working Group, 2010-2011

Panelist, Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Speakers Bureau, 2009-2011

Member, Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy, 2009-2010

Organizer, Transcending Boundaries in Sexuality Research Conference, 2009

Founder and Chair, Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy, 2008-2009

Facilitator, Crossroads (LGBTQ graduate student organization), 2007-2009


University of Richmond (2013-2022)

Chair, Department Search Committee, 2021

Chair, Spring Awards Ceremony committee, 2021

Chair, Spring Awards Ceremony committee, 2020

Member, Department Search Committee, 2019-2020

Member, Department Search Committee, 2019

Organizer and Co-Facilitator, Brownbag Lunch Discussion on Sociology and Free Speech

Chair, Spring Awards Ceremony committee, 2019

Member, Department Search Committee, 2018

Chair, Spring Awards Ceremony committee, 2018

Chair, Spring Awards Ceremony committee, 2016

Coordinator, Spring Awards Ceremony, 2015

Member, Department Search Committee, 2014

Indiana University (2007-2013)

Member, Election Committee, Graduate Student Association, 2012

Coordinator, Mentor-for-an-Hour Program, Graduate Student Association, 2011-2012

Executive Committee Representative, Graduate Student Association, 2011-2012

Graduate Student Mentor, Graduate Student Association, 2010-2012

President, Graduate Student Association, 2010-2011

Member, Outstanding Faculty and Graduate Mentor Awards Committee, 2009-2010

Member, Race and Ethnic Relations Committee, 2007-2013

Graduate Affairs Committee, Graduate Student Association, 2009-2010

Member, Public Sociology Forum, 2008-2011

Graduate Student Mentor, Graduate Student Association, 2008-2009

Race and Ethnic Relations Committee Representative, 2008-2009

Co-Chair, Race and Ethnic Relations Committee, 2008-2009

Member, Graduate Student Association, 2007-2013

Research Mentorship

Master’s Thesis Advisor (Ebony Kirkland, University of Richmond), 2021

Honors Thesis Advisor (Jennifer Munnings, University of Richmond – supported by competitive student research grant), 2019-2020

Summer Research Advisor (Maddy Dunbar, University of Richmond – supported by competitive Richmond Guarantee research award), 2015

Honors Thesis Advisor (Aurora Breeden, University of Richmond), 2015-2016

Honors Thesis Advisor (Haley Tillage, University of Richmond), 2014-2015

Honors Thesis Committee Member (Gigi Dejoy, University of Richmond – supported by competitive Richmond Guarantee research award and winner of UR Arts & Sciences Student Symposium paper competition), 2014-2015

Honors Thesis Committee Member (Dana McLachlin, University of Richmond), 2013-2014

Honors Thesis Committee Member (Katherine McKinney, Sociology, Indiana University), 2011-2012


Guest speaker, White People: Yes, it is Difficult for You to Talk about Race – That’s Part of Racism’s Design, ADORE (A Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity), Davies Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church, Camp Springs, MD, 2019

Executive Board Member, Virginia Anti-Violence Project, 2015

Panelist, Transgender People in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Settings: Recent Research, Virginia Anti-Violence Project, University of Richmond Downtown, Richmond, VA, 2014 (See my comments from the panel)

Safety Escort, Planned Parenthood, Bloomington, IN, 2011

Boyfriend Lessons, Illumenate and Middle Way House, 2011-2012
Developed and facilitated eight session workshop series on healthy sexual and romantic relationships for gay, bisexual, and transgender men ages 18-28

Building Healthy Relationships, Middle Way House, Bloomington, IN, 2009-2011
Assisted with development for sexual violence prevention curriculum for local middle and high schools; Produced a report on bystander intervention research and programming

Resource Center Volunteer, Shalom Community Center, Bloomington, IN, 2009
Provided administrative support in the Center’s office, distributing mail and toiletries to people experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty


National Student Intern, National Sexuality Resource Center, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, 2008-2009

National Office Intern, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Washington, DC, 2005-2006


Last updated on 08-22-2022

White People: You’re Racist, But This Isn’t About You

Source: CLAgency, University of Minnesota.

Earlier this week, I took to Twitter while on the train returning from the 2018 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in Philadelphia, PA. I was exhausted and frustrated after the conference, but suffer from just enough anxiety to prevent me from sleeping in public. So, I decided to address one irony of the conference.

The ASA conference theme was Feeling Race, yet many white sociologists in attendance were surprisingly unreflective about their white privilege, complicity in racism, and negative emotional reactions to people of color who called them on their privilege/prejudice/stereotypes. I even witnessed some paint a person of color, who vocalized offense at the way in which another person of color was snubbed, as a villain who berated well-meaning white people.

Below, I have turned the rather long Twitterstorm into an essay.  Thanks to the MANY kind people who asked whether they could share this, nudging me to turn it into a blog post to more easily share. And, special thanks to @DamienMcKenna, who kindly put my tweets into one document, sparing me a lot of copying and pasting!  Please read on…

Envision this perhaps all-too-familiar scenario.

You’re white…

and, a person of color — let’s call her Denise — has directly or indirectly suggested that something you have done toward or said about race, people of color, or whites is problematic. Or, Denise noted that something seemingly race-neutral or otherwise unrelated to race was inherently about race. She might even have said, “you(r comments) are racist.”

Next, you feel a wave of emotions: surprise, anger, resentment, sadness, embarrassment. Denise, a Black woman, has questioned your racial politics, your allyship to people of color, your commitment to liberalism, equality, and social justice. You are hurt!

You want to do many things, but do not want to provide more fodder for the accusation that you(r comments) are racist. Maybe you to clarify for Denise, “I’m not racist,” or “you’re reading into things,” or “you’re being overly sensitive,” or “it’s not always about race,” or “you’re playing the race card.” You certainly didn’t intend to be insensitive. Doesn’t that count for something? So, you might try to further explain yourself. Maybe Denise just didn’t have enough information before she vocalized her conclusion that your comments were offensive.

Or, Denise doesn’t know enough about you — YOU! She don’t know that you voted for Barack Obama (twice!) and certainly voted against Donald J. Trump (and will do so again in two years). That you have friendly relationships with people of color, who have never said otherwise. Maybe you’ve even donated money to NAACP, marched alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, or acknowledge the existence of your Latina housekeeper.

You’re upset because the explicit or implied accusation that you are racist lumps you in the same category with Trump, neo-nazis, and your Archie-Bunker-like grandfather who insists on referring to Black people as “niggers” or “Negroes” or “coloreds.” You know, those white people who intentionally discriminate, actively hate people of color, and feel superior as a member of the white race.

Now, you are probably so in your head. Race relations are so fraught! Why can’t we ever talk about race without someone being accused of racism? It seems to you that some people of color already come to the conversation closed, angry, reading to call out “whitey” for racism. Why did Denise have to go there?

Now that you, white person, are currently under an informal investigation for racism, let me tell you about what may be happening for the person of color who has accused you of being offensive toward people of color (perhaps even racist).

Some of us folks of color never bothered, or have stopped bothering, to figure out which white people are racist and which ones aren’t. Accusing any white person of racism often results in the aforementioned emotional response(s). White people rarely respond in productive ways. (Since posting this Twitterstorm on Tuesday, I’ve been responding to a number of whites who demand room for caveats and exceptions, who want acknowledgement of the ways in which they are victimized in an unequal society, or who really just want to put me in my “place” and shut me up.)

Instead, we pay attention to racism as a system of oppression that shapes institutional practices, policies, and cultures, constrains interpersonal interactions, and manifests on the individual level as white privilege, individual-level discrimination, microaggressions, and prejudice. It’s never been a matter of a few racist “bad apples,” a simple fix of changing hearts and minds.

We won’t waste time calling a singular white person “racist”; it’s too much of a given to waste the time that will ultimately be spent on the white person’s negative reaction, possibly even having to comfort them so that they can restore their fragile identity as a white liberal. Honestly, some of us just assume that every white person is racist because each one benefits from an inhumane, oppressive system that robs people of color of our livelihoods, our health and well-being, and our lives.

So, in this hypothetical situation — Denise, a person of color, has accused you of being racist (again, either explicitly or implicitly). It took her incredible patience and courage to do so. We know, most of the time, we will be punished for doing so, at a minimum through the exhaustion of explaining ourselves and defending our right to feel pain under the oppressive system that is racism.

This is one of those (possibly rare) moments when we feel the stakes are too high to remain silent, or when we might actually reach you. Honestly, there are infinite ways in which we let problematic shit from white people slide; it’s not worth the energy to constantly fight. I’d venture to say that we let half or more of what we endure and witness slide because of the risks of calling it out or the energy it will take to explain ourselves.

And, now, we’ve reentered an era when calling out racism and white supremacy (or not) is realistically a matter of life or death. We have to weigh the costs. And, let it be known that pointing out that something is offensive will always come with costs, none of them negligible. Denise has drawn from an already depleted reserve of energy to “deal with” your problematic view or comments. Depleted because that isn’t even her first exposure to racial insensitivity today!

Before that meeting, a white woman moved away from her on the elevator. An older white man stared at her. A white cashier wasn’t as friendly with Denise as the white customer ahead of usher A white colleague just called her Angela — the name of the only other Black woman in the office who is several shades lighter, has short hair (unlike Denise’s locks), wears glasses, and is easily 5 inches shorter than Denise.

Unlike you, for many people of color (especially those in the middle-class), our interactions outside of the house are overwhelmingly with white people who come from a range of political backgrounds and levels of ceaselessness and insensitivity about race and racism.

You just said something was “ghetto” in reference to a Black middle-class person who grew up in and currently lives in the suburbs. (Please never refer to our bodies with the reference “ghetto booty.”) And, we don’t have enough energy to clock you on the problems with conflating Blackness with poverty and “low-class” lifestyles.

You think you’ve just complimented Denise’s new hairstyle and touched it while doing so. But, she simply doesn’t have the time to educate you on the history of whites’ possession and inspection and exploitation of Black bodies, especially Black women’s.

Denise is already exhausted because her white supervisor wanted to play “devil’s advocate” — what if we focused on class instead of race in diversifying the staff because “it’s really about class” — like it’s a game for whites while it’s our livelihoods.

That discomfort you felt in being called out for a single racist comment is a pinch compared to a lifetime of beatings by whiteness and racism that people of color face. In your efforts to defend your good white liberal identity, you will inevitably enact further violence against the person of color you have offended. Telling Denise that her experience in that conversation, in life, is a form of gaslighting — and we face it 24/7.

Falling into the predictable trap of “but, I’m not racist” is an attempt to separate yourself from every other white person’s racist behaviors — for example, this morning Trump and friends called us criminals, rapists, animals, put our kids in cages, forced us out of the country. You want to be seen as an individual white person. You don’t want to be stereotyped, you don’t want assumptions made about you because of your race. Yes, the exact thing that is systematically denied to people of color — you know, because of racism.

People of color do not receive the privilege of individuality. Assumptions are made about who we are, what we do, what we want and value, how we talk, who we love and make love with, etc. all the damn time. We are a color first and, sometimes, an individual. Even as an individual, white people in our lives come to us to work through their feelings and opinions about race (while not talking to other white people). This is a form of labor which goes unpaid, on top of already receiving a fraction of wages for the same work whites do.

Whites often come to us to be absolved for slavery, internment camps, Latinx kids in cages, the Trump regime, their racist uncle, the theft, removal, forced assimilation, and genocide of First Nation people, for white guilt, for white privilege, for even being white. Somehow, whites view us as the ones who bring race into the room or conversation. Part of the package of white privilege is being able to think of yourself in spite of your race (while reducing people of color to their race).

You’re able to think of yourself as raceless. You’re able to ignore that all of your friends, family, coworkers, fellow congregants, neighbors, elected officials, teachers, etc. are also white. But, then, see people of color as “playing the race” card. You’re totally oblivious to how you refer to individuals as “diverse,” which is logically incorrect because diversity implies difference among people not within an individual person.

White person, when Denise has called you out for saying or doing something problematic, I implore you to do anything but become defensive or angry. Do not proceed with restoring your “good white liberal” identity because that makes the situation about you. Yes, that person of color is calling you out specifically, but she is also speaking to the broader system of racism. So, please don’t make it just about you. (Most situations are about white people. Take a breath. Take a seat — take several seats.)

You should relinquish the assumption that you will never do or say anything offensive toward people of color. Odds are, you will, and you will do so frequently. You won’t be able to help yourself. You studied in schools that pushed curriculum that spoke of your superiority and, if it ever reflected people of color, framed these communities as marginal, barbaric, extinct, exotic, criminal, and to be feared. The media, politics, medicine, science, religion, and various other institutions have only echoed the centrality of whiteness and the marginal, devalued status of people of color. So, let’s get past that so we can actually address racism rather than your sense of self.

It might be fair to say that the more you make what follows about you — how right you are, how non-racist you are, how wrong they are to accuse you of being offensive — the more you undermine Denise’s sense of self, perspective of the world, and sense of safety.

I’m going to ask you to do something radical: start viewing instances in which people of color call you out for being offensive (or even racist) as gifts. Denise has taken the time to let you know how she feels and she has invited you to consider rectifying the situation, to do better, to learn and grow.

What may feel like an attack from a person of color is actually a form of “tough love” in what should be a collective project to fight racism. She likely assumes you are receptive enough to hear her and do better — or at least hopes so.

What you’ll have to do is assume you already complicit in racism by virtue of benefiting from the racist system. Work on taking the sting out of the label “racist.” It’s so counterproductive to get hung up on who’s racist and who isn’t while we leave intact the system of racism.

White person, I ask that you recognize being able to feel something about racism that then is recognized and dealt with by others (especially people of color) is a form of white privilege. How people of color feel about race and racism is too often dismissed, questioned, ignored. Hell, even the research that scholars of color do on race is labeled “me-search” and suspected of being personal opinion rather than empirical research. (It seems only whites are able to maintain “objectivity.”)

Remember when Black folks felt so enraged and sad that the deaths of innocent Black children and adults went unpunished? When we eeked out “Black Lives Matter” through voices hoarse from crying? A lot of white people got mad and said, “no, all lives matter.” You made it about you. Your cries of “All Lives Matter” was you making our grief and rage about you. And, then, you made a joke of it (e.g., Black Labs Matter). Honestly, I can’t find another way to describe this than violence. Co-opting and mocking our feelings following white violence against Black bodies… sick.

I implore you to not weaponize the anger people color feel in the face of racism. People of color are standing in a pool of white tears as it is. Please resist the effort to villainize us as the “Angry Black/Latinx/First Nation/Asian American” person because we called you out (or called you in). Again, that is a form of racial gaslighting.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying do not emote. I am not ignoring the inevitable discomfort you feel after someone has accused you of being a bad (white) person. Whites’ collective identity as non-racist is powerful; being a proud racist fell out of fashion (though it seems to be making a return).

What I am taking issue with is how you then respond. I can’t stress this enough: do not get defensive; do not demand an apology or to be consoled; do not do anything that either makes it about you or that undermines the accusation you(r comments) are racist or offensive. An implied or explicit accusation that you(r comments) are racist is an opportunity for you to learn and grow. This means that you will have to listen, open your mind and heart, even beyond limits that feel uncomfortable. (Recall that it is hella uncomfortable for Denise to call you out.)

If you do not immediately understand the accusation, resist the urge to dismiss it. Rather, you should ask to hear more (if they are willing to educate you, especially if requested without compensation and in the face of personal and professional risks of calling out racism). But, you should also make a commitment to learn on your own. It is not the responsibility of people of color to educate you about racism, for you to unlearn years of racist indoctrination. Here’s a hard truth — white people invented racism to justify the enslavement of Africans, justify stealing land from First Nation people, and to limit US citizenship and other privileges of whiteness to European Americans. (Here’s a great 5-minute video made by sociologist Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza on the invention of race.)

“Please teach me” sounds innocent enough, but it misses that whites perceive themselves to be uneducated about race and the lives and histories of people of color. But, that ignorance is by design. Our stories are not included in mainstream education, history, nor portrayed in the media. You probably don’t know much about race and the lives and histories of people of color because you never had to. When people of color demand it, we lack the power to do anything more than ask you to care. Meanwhile, racist propaganda disguised as education, religion, and popular culture are shoved down our throats from childhood.

We know so much more about race, even more than white people 1) because racism is set up to ensure we are all indoctrinated into whiteness and 2) because we have to understand our “predator” as a matter of survival in a society designed to exploit and destroy us. (Check out Dr. W. E. B. Dubois’s work, especially his concept of “double consciousness.”)

Many of us deal with white people all day long, while the reverse is hardly ever true. And, most whites who do encounter people of color do so in fleeting, rare, and power-imbalanced interactions — you the manager, them your employee, you the teacher, them the janitor, etc. So, we’ve had to learn a lot about you. But, white privilege allows you to remain ignorant about us, to maintain whatever stories you already hold about us while saying to the token person of color in your life, “you’re not like other Asian/Latinx/First Nation/Black” people.

Should emotions arise after you’ve been accused of being offensive by a person of color, I’m going to ask that you place the burden of consoling you on fellow white people. You’ve got white privilege; please don’t ask anything more from us. But, to be frank here, white folks: get your people. Dole out some tough love when your fellow white folks are sobbing because they were called out for being racist. Do not feed into the white-victims-of-angry-people-of-color narrative. Do what is necessary so that they can move past the negative emotional reaction, to then focus on processing the situation effectively enough to grow from it and right whatever wrongs they’ve done if possible.

Something is wrong if you only talk about race and racism with people of color, especially if you privately express support or sympathy to us but are publicly tight-lipped about race. I’m tired of whispers of support from whites who have so much more power and privilege than I will ever have, yet sit in their cowardice as they try to maintain that power and privilege.

White people, most of your conversations should probably be with other white people. And, I’m not talking about politely enduring your Aunt Patty’s tirade about “too many Mexicans” taking up all the (supposedly non-Hispanic white) jobs. White people, you need to get comfortable with making yourself and other white people uncomfortable with the racist status quo. Watch, and rewatch, and bookmark Luvvie Ajayi’s TEDWomen 2017 talk, “Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable“; become the brave domino who pushes others to stand up against injustice.

Please do not wait until after the encounter to privately commiserate with us about how racist that was. You have far less to lose in calling bullshit out as soon as it happens, and publicly for all to hear. Please do not wait on us to speak up when something racist occurs. That is everyone’s job, especially whites who benefit from racism and want to dismantle it.

If you are familiar with the bystander approach for intervening in the face of sexual violence (including rape jokes and other more “minor” instances of rape culture), many have applied it to fighting racism: https://egrollman.com/2013/02/27/bystander-intervention-racism/ Like we do in this racist society, you should already assume your relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow congregants, elected officials, etc. are already racist. No need to dwell on “what did he mean by that? I can’t believe she said that!” Take the shock out of it. Racism is pervasive, period.

You need to take it upon yourself to call out racism no matter how minor. Mirror good anti-racist behavior for other whites. Yes, it is scary and always will be; but, someone else may be thinking “this is messed up,” but are far less brave and/or have more to lose if speaking up.

And, in those moments that you, white person, do call out racism, you do not get a prize. A lifetime of white privilege and a history of white supremacy is more than enough of a reward. You need to give some back. Consider supporting efforts to pay out reparations.

Getting a cookie everytime you “aren’t racist” defeats the purpose. Do it because the alternative is complicity in an inhumane system of domination. Resist the urge to say “it’s not my problem/my place/responsibility.” Everyone is impacted by racism, and therefore we are all responsible for its dismantling.

Resist the urge to cave to feeling too ignorant on race issues to speak up. There is power just in saying “I find that problematic,” or asking a question that forces fellow white people to reveal what may be underlying racial bias. You don’t have to have all of the answers to have an impact in fighting racism. Even the slightest articulation of concern could force others to rethink their behavior or words.

And, don’t expect that you will have an impact. Calling out other whites’ racism may not have a positive impact right away. And, it will likely take many people in their lives calling them out to not simply dismiss these accusations. Maybe take the time to find one good educational resource on racism to recommend. This means doing a little bit of homework, but trust that many people of color and anti-racist whites spend a great deal of time, energy, and money on creating and publicizing these resources.

From my own experience with speaking up, I’ve found that being the first to do so often doesn’t mean I’m the only voice. You very well may make space for other whites to challenge racism when it occurs. But, even if you are the only one to speak up, you have to be okay feeling afraid and awkward. Racism is structured in a way that rewards you for your complicity in it.

To your credit, white-dominated institutions are designed to fail people of color. So, the burden you feel as an individual to fight racism is the product of that institutional failure. It sucks and its unfair and its very hard. I wish I could offer more than acknowledgement here.

But again, the second you think “this is hard/uncomfortable,” I want you to remember the pinch you feel is a plane crash for people of color. I want you to proactively push through the discomfort of addressing racism to lighten the heavy burden people of color feel at every turn.

Get creative about it, use the resources that are already at your fingertips. Maybe partner with a fellow white person to hold you accountable for being anti-racist; maybe to tag-team in calling out other whites’ racism. Find a way to take joy in making other white people squirm in their white privilege. (Seriously, y’all take yourselves too seriously.)

When you’re invited into a space and see few or no people of color, immediately raise that point. If you’re invited to speak, consider declining and, in your place, recommending a person of color. Examine every seemingly race-neutral context in your life for the ways in which white people are actually privileged.

The reality is, most middle- and upper-class white folks’ lives are so busy because you are committed to living the lives to which you’ve been told you are entitled. “I just don’t have the time!” means it’s more important for you to invest in your white kids’ futures and your all-white community than uplifting communities of color and promoting racial equality.

Sure, you never actively, intentionally exclude people of color. But, you are complicit when you take part in systems and organizations that are not inclusive of people of color. There is no such thing as “not racist” or “non-racist.” You cannot be neutral within a racist system.

To be at the mercy of cultures, traditions, communities, organizations, and institutions that privilege white people makes you complicit. If not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Of course, totally rejecting white privilege and exiting white supremacy is impossible. And, that’s not necessarily the goal here. Rather, I want you, white person, to feel empowered to leverage your white privilege in service of racial justice.

Know that the fear you feel about speaking up is the way in which white privilege (and white supremacy) protects itself. (Most) white people no longer use terms like “race traitor” or “nigger-lover” but the sentiment remains. This is the way white people keep one another in check in the white supremacist project.

The parallel from my own life is feeling cisgender men attempt to police my commitment to feminism as part of the patriarchal project. My loyalties have been questioned and, of course, I am usually assumed to be queer (because to be straight means to hate women). (For the record, I am queer AF.)

You have to let go of the need to be liked by other white people. It’s pretty messed up if you have to comply with racism in order to be liked. You’d be the person who pushed a stranger in front of a moving train to be accepted into a fraternity or sorority.

White privilege is like a boomerang. Even if you throw it away, it will come back right to you. So, fear not. Pissing off a few fellow white people who are racist won’t ruin your life and, again, the costs pale in comparison to what it costs people of color.

In summary: white folks, being called on your racism can be upsetting — but, it’s not about you; it’s part of the larger effort to dismantle white supremacy. Calling out racism may seem hard to you, but being oppressed under racism is unimaginable to you. So, when (not if) Denise calls you out/in, apologize for the impact (and don’t bother explaining your intent — it only stings more), listen listen listen, note that it won’t happen again because you will genuinely make a point to grow from this exchange and learn more about racism. Being called out is a gift — you are welcome.