Three Interventions to Combat Microaggressions

During the 2021 ACAAM Annual Meeting, the organization’s Anti-Racism/Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee presented a session titled "Moving Beyond Kneeling: Promoting an Anti-Racist and Racial Justice Framework within Academic Addiction Medicine Fellowships."

During the session, the committee discussed the prevalence of microaggressions, and provided three tools that can be used to help combat them as they occur. These examples were related to specific scenarios discussed during the session, whose Powerpoint slides can be downloaded here for context.

1. Open the Front Door (OTFD)

  • Observe: Concrete, factual, and observable (not evaluative)
    “I overheard you ask our trainee to have her mom make tacos for the team.”
  • Think: Thoughts based on observations (yours and/or theirs)
    “I’m wondering what you were thinking in that moment.”
  • Feel: Emotions – “I feel emotion.”
    “I feel uncomfortable with the statement assuming every Latinx individual is Mexican or makes tacos.”
  • Desire: Specific request or inquiries about desired outcome
    “I want to make sure the hospital is a comfortable place for everyone and these kinds of assumptions or generalizations can make people feel unwelcome.”

2. Speak Up Using XYZ

  • “I feel X when Y because Z”
  • “I feel uncomfortable when I hear you mention that our Department does not see color, because it minimizes the different experiences and racism that trainees of color have experienced.”
  • “I felt uncomfortable when I heard you ask Sara what she was and where she was from because it made it seem like she was foreign or alien or exotic and not part of our group.”

3. A.C.T.I.O.N. Plan

  • Ask clarifying questions to assist with understanding intentions
    “I want to make sure I understand your email about James potentially suffering from an attention or learning disability.”
  • Come from curiosity, not judgment
    “Can you help me understand what you mean by that?”
  • Tell what you observed as problematic in a factual manner
    “I’ve noticed that when learning disabilities are ascribed to students from minoritized groups, especially Black men and boys, this often perpetuates negative stereotypes that only further reinforces unfair structural disadvantage.”
  • Impact exploration: ask for or state the potential impact on others
    “What do you think the APD thought when she read your message?”
  • Own your own thoughts and feelings around the impact
    “When I read your message, I grew worried about what happens when we make assumptions about others that turn out to be incorrect. I feel this can be damaging to student careers and reveals the DEI work we all need to do as a program”
  • Next steps: Request appropriate action be taken
    “I’d appreciate your thinking about this when you contact James again to reschedule.”

ACAAM’s Anti-Racism/Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee will continue to provide leadership for the organization on many important topics, including on ACAAM’s 14-point DEI Action Plan. To learn how you can get involved in the organization’s efforts, or to provide ideas for future content that can be created specific to DEI, please contact ACAAM’s Executive Director, Bruce Hammond, at [email protected].

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