DEI Task Force participates in antiracism workshop

Art by generative scribe with words describing the event: observe, dialogue, patient safety first

Artwork created by generative scribe Vivien Leung during the workshop

Earlier this year members of the department’s DEI Task Force participated in a series of virtual “Theater of the Oppressed”–style sessions to learn how to recognize and respond to racist microaggressions in the workplace.

Actors portraying hospital personnel and patient

             Actors in their "Theater of the Oppressed" roles

Inspired by real-life events, a group of improv actors performed vignettes portraying instances of microaggressions in a hospital setting. After watching the vignettes, department members discussed their reactions to what they witnessed, then joined breakout groups to consider possible responses.

The sessions were designed not only to show the audience what microaggressions look and sound like, but also how to respond constructively in the moment, whether they are targets or observers. Each 90-minute session was moderated by a social work consultant with expertise in conducting conversations about race and racism.

Pre- and post-participation surveys affirmed the need for such workshops and their value in starting the conversation to educate members of the department, empower targets and bystanders to speak-up, and enact norms of conduct in the workplace.

Microaggressions are often expressions of latent biases in which assumptions are made about others’ roles or abilities based on one aspect of their identity. Regardless of intent, microaggressions have a pernicious effect on the physical and psychological health of targets. The Theater of the Oppressed workshop helped participants to recognize some of the expressions of systemic racism in the workplace, to be vigilant about their unconscious bias, and to show allyship against racism and discrimination. 

This project is the result of a seed grant (“Understanding and Responding to Racial Microaggressions in the Theater of the Oppressed”) awarded to Dr. Allison Lee, Dr. Maya Jalbout Hastie, and Dr. Desmond Jordan, and funded through the Addressing Racism: A Call to Action for Higher Education initiative of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement.