Skip to main content


The Cowell Center is actively addressing racial bias and dismantling policies and practices that lead to racial inequities and ruptured relationships in our community. We are dedicated to the ongoing process of honest and humble self reflection and intentional practice. We commit to serve in solidarity with BIPOC communities.

We see antiracism as an essential component of animating our values and mission.

We acknowledge our complicity in structures of white supremacy that have caused pain, inequity, and injustice for those who have been oppressed by these structures. Through our personal and professional development we commit ourselves to creating a culture of inclusivity and multiculturalism through our services and training programs. Our continued goal is to foster spaces of support, belonging, celebration, and empowerment through medical and mental health services.

Coping with Racism and Discrimination:

Being an undergraduate or graduate student is a stressful time for many people. Most students make significant adjustments to their lives to attend Santa Clara University. Some students leave home for the first-time and some travel from far away nations to attend a university, or even commute to campus regularly. Many students have to make sacrifices in order to achieve their goals of graduating with their degree. With these sacrifices often comes increased and predictable stress. For students of color, these stressors can be exacerbated by race-related stressors, for instance experiencing microaggressions while interacting with friends, peers, staff, and faculty, or witnessing acts of overt racism and hate on or off campus. The purpose of this page is to provide tips for coping with race-related stress and resources on and off campus.

We would like to give a special thanks to: Steven Goings, LCSW at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the Personal Growth and Counseling Center at CSUMB for allowing SCU CAPS to utilize their webpages as a framework to develop this page.

What is Racism and Race-Related Stress?

Race-related stress or racial trauma refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by encounters with racial bias and ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes. Any individual that has experienced an emotionally painful, sudden, or uncontrollable racist encounter is at risk of suffering a race-based traumatic stress injury. Race-related stress can make it hard to have space needed to take care of oneself.  Experiencing these adverse racial incidents can have negative consequences for students of color, impacting their social and academic lives as well as their physical and psychological health.

Microaggressions are indirect or subtle expressions of racism, sexism, ageism, or ableism. Microaggressions are verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that are expressed intentionally or unintentionally.  They communicate hostile, derogatory, and insulting assumptions. They contribute to “othering” a person or a group of people. Statements like “I don’t see color”, and “You’re so articulate or speak so well” convey messages such as race does not matter or that people of different racial backgrounds do not speak as well as other groups of people.

Prejudice refers to any negative beliefs, feelings, judgments, or opinions that one holds about people based on their membership to a group. This group does not necessarily have to involve race, ethnicity, culture. It can also be based on groupings of religious or political affiliation, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or ability status. Racial prejudice is the negative beliefs that are held towards a racial group. These prejudices can lead to acts of discrimination.

Discrimination occurs when members of a group are treated differently from members of other groups. Racial discrimination is the act of treating members of a particular race in ways that are unfair, unequal, and harmful. Discriminatory behavior occurs when prejudice, hostility, and negative feelings towards a person or group based on their racial, ethnic, or cultural identity are acted upon. For example, discrimination can take many different forms both subtle and over ways.

Some examples:

  • Biases towards another person based on their race may inform hiring teams to discriminate towards individuals of a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural identity
  • Stereotypes based on misconceptions, false generalization, and assumptions can lead to negative consequences for individuals of color 
  • Racial profiling occurs when someone actively treats members of a particular race differently based on suspicion of a person based on their race, culture, ethnicity, or place of origin rather than a reasonable suspicion.

“Racism is racial prejudice that has been incorporated into systems such as major institutions, corporations, universities, healthcare organizations, banking, housing, and governmental policies. Racism leads to discrimination against a minority racial/ethnic group while maintaining the benefits, privileges, and power of a majority racial/ethnic group. When a majority group in power makes decisions based upon racial prejudice, it can lead to oppressive sociopolitical barriers and policies against a minority group.”

How does racism and race-related stress impact BIPOC students?

Racism does not look the same for all BIPOC students. It is important to distinguish that Anti-Black, Anti-Indigenous, Anti-Asian, Anti-Latino/A/X, and other forms of targeted racism all have their own socio-political and historical factors that have deeply impacted these communities. Oppressive and systemic injustices all have impacted BIPOC individuals in many different ways. The impacts that racism and race-related stress has on an individual can be tremendous. These are just some examples of the impact that racism and race-related stress can impact BIPOC Students

  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Increased risk for illness due to chronic stress
  • Hypertension/increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Increased fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Sleep and appetite challenges
  • Anger, frustration, irritation, resentment
  • Anxiety, fear, worry
  • Hypervigilance (being on guard to respond to racial stress/racism)
  • Depression, sadness, apathy, hopelessness
  • Shame
  • Grief/loss
  • Confusion
  • Challenges focusing/concentrating/attending to tasks, situations, and/or people
  • Loss of motivation
  • Avoidance
  • Isolation
  • Disengagement
  • Substance use
  • Aggressiveness/defensiveness
  • Increased conflict in relationships

Unfortunately, for some BIPOC students it may be difficult to seek out support because of worries that they will face racism when asking for health or mental health services. There can be concerns that their individual and racial experiences will be minimized, dismissed, or invalidated by healthcare and mental health professionals. This often creates a barrier to accessing services for their health and mental health needs. It is important that students advocate for themselves by asking  to work with a practitioner who is culturally appropriate and competent or seeking services from agencies that identify as working from an anti-oppressive or anti-racist approach.

Recommendations for coping with race-related stress

Coping with race-related stress is something that racialized peoples have been doing for centuries through building community, cultivating support systems, engaging in social justice and advocacy, and through self and cultural expression. Here are some considerations to aid in coping with race-related stress.

Attending university for the first time or returning to university can be a particularly challenging time for students. For BIPOC students, navigating the university experience while dealing with race-related stress can exacerbate these challenges. Connecting with a social group and with other individuals who share similar values, cultural practices, and racial or ethnic identities can be quite helpful. Racism and race-related stress can lead to feelings of isolation, withdrawal, and even symptoms of depression. By engaging with social support systems, navigating campus life and experiences of racism or race-related stress can be both validating and empowering. 

Engaging in spiritual practices, and connecting with faith based communities that reflect one’s value systems can be a great way to cope with stress. This could lead to deepening faith, values that provide comfort, belonging, meaning and purpose, which will bolster well being. 

Self-empowerment through cultural and personal expression can be a powerful strategy to affirm oneself. Exploring, engaging, and embracing cultural practices can also be a meaningful way to reflect on your resilience and the collective spirit of your cultural, racial, or ethnic background.   These practices can lead to expanding your support network as well as deepening your connections to community.

When we have someone in our lives that we can look up to and seek guidance from we can feel supported in many ways. Having a role model or mentor to who you can relate through shared identities and lived experiences can be a helpful resource. Role models and mentors can be a source of inspiration and provide guidance for navigating challenging situations.

Exploring and practicing different forms of self-expression can be a helpful strategy to cope with racism and race-related stress. It can help us feel empowered and even bring us closer to our sense of self.  It allows us to express our thoughts and feelings, perception, and beliefs through a variety of mediums. We can express ourselves verbally with our words, with our bodies, with art, food, music, clothing, and many other ways.  

In dealing with the pressures of everyday life and experiencing racism and discrimination, its not uncommon to lose track of the ways we take care of ourselves. As students, social and academic pressures can consume time and self-care can be dismissed. Add consistent self-care practices to your schedule.  Self-care is refueling, recharging and renewing your body, mind, and spirit. These practices will contribute to your ability to deal with stressors. The practice of negative emotions and negative physical consequences of stress.

Give yourself permission to set boundaries with others and with yourself. Dealing with racism and race-related stress can be taxing. You are under no obligation to explain your feelings, educate people on ways to act, or take care of someone’s emotions.  

For some, being involved in social action and advocacy can be empowering. Consider how much you are able to take on at the moment, or in a season of life Consider your needs, your capacity, and your limitations when considering adding new commitments. . While social action is important, it is equally important to take care of yourself. If you want to get involved with social justice efforts, consider joining groups on or off campus.

Mental Health Resources for BIPOC Students at SCU

CAPS is located in the Cowell Center. We are a diverse team of licensed therapists, graduate-level trainees, and mental health professionals dedicated to promoting student’s well-being through short-term therapy, crisis support, case management, support groups and workshops. Students do not need to have a mental health diagnosis to utilize CAPS services. Talking to a CAPS provider about race-related stress, experiences of racism, and even exploration of racial, ethnic, and cultural identity is embraced and welcomed. You can see our staff here. CAPS also offers a BIPOC Student Support and Empowerment group that is offered each quarter. You can find information about it here.

Student Health Services is located in the Cowell Center and shares space with CAPS. Student health services offers a wide range of medical services for SCU students. Among the services offered are primary care, urgent care, minor procedures, physical exams, health education, immunizations, STI testing, nutrition services and limited pharmacy services. You can learn more about Student Health Services by visiting the website here.

CAPS 24/7 is a service partnered with SCU to provide 24/7 crisis counseling support as an alternative to therapy at the Cowell Center. CAPS 24/7 will help you connect with licensed counselors to schedule session times that work for you. Counseling is available via video or in person, wherever you are. CAPS 24/7 services are free for actively enrolled and registered students at SCU. CAPS 24/7 can be reached at (408) 554-5220 and you can visit the CAPS 24/7 webpage here.

Social Support and Community Building Resources for BIPOC Students at SCU

The Office of Multicultural Learning (OML) and the Rainbow Resource Center (RRC) are both offices on campus committed to serving all members of our campus community: students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni. As part of the Inclusive Excellence Division. OML and RRC serve our campus community through action guided social justice including community building, allyship, and advocacy. OML offers education and training such as partnering with Safe Space and UndocuAlly Trainings for the campus community as well as offering frequent Difficult Dialogue community conversations to educate the campus about culture to increase awareness and community building. The RRC also offers specific resources, education, and allyship for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. You can find more information at their webpage here.

  • Asian Pacific-Islander Student Union (APSU)
  • Barkada (Filipino)
  • Chinese Student Association (CSA)
  • Hermanas Unidas
  • Igwebuike (Black/Pan-African)
  • Intandesh (South Asian)
  • Japanese Student Association (JSA)
  • Ka Mana`o O Hawai`i
  • Korean Student Association (KSA)
  • Latinx Student Union (LSU)
  • Middle Eastern North African Club (MENA)
  • Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)
  • Together for Ladies of Color (TLC)
  • Vietnamese Student Association (VSA)
  • Undocumented Students and Allies Association (USAA)

For More Information click the link here.

Campus ministry provide support and resources for students’ spiritual needs and development. Campus Ministers are available for one-on-one conversations about life, about questions or concerns students have about spirituality and faith. Campus ministers also offer ongoing spiritual direction. Campus ministry is grounded in the Christian faith, embraces Catholic and Ignatian traditions, and honors students’ diversity of religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions.

 For more information, click the link here.