March 22, 2014

Microaggressions go mainstream

Students See Many Slights as Racial ‘Microaggressions’

By Tanzina VegamarchThe recent surge in popularity for the term can be attributed, in part, to an academic article Derald W. Sue, a psychology professor at Columbia University, published in 2007 in which he broke down microaggressions into microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations. Dr. Sue, who has literally written the book on the subject, called “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation,” attributed the increased use of the term to the rapidly changing demographics in which minorities are expected to outnumber whites in the United States by 2042. “As more and more of us are around, we talk to each other and we know we’re not crazy,” Dr. Sue said. Once, he said, minorities kept silent about perceived slights. “I feel like people of color are less inclined to do that now,” he said.

Some say challenges to affirmative action in recent years have worked to stir racial tensions and resentments on college campuses. At least in part as a result of a blog started by two Columbia University students four years ago called The Microaggressions Project, the word made the leap from the academic world to the free-for-all on the web. Vivian Lu, the co-creator of the site, said she has received more than 15,000 submissions since she began the project.

To date, the site has had 2.5 million page views from 40 countries. Ms. Lu attributed the growing popularity of the term to its value in helping to give people a way to name something that may not be so obvious. “It gives people the vocabulary to talk about these everyday incidents that are quite difficult to put your finger on,” she said.

To Serena Rabie, 22, a paralegal who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013, “This is racism 2.0.” She added: “It comes with undertones, it comes with preconceived notions. You hire the Asian computer programmer because you think he’s going to be a good programmer because he’s Asian.” Drawing attention to microaggressions, whether they are intentional or not, is part of eliminating such stereotypes, Ms. Rabie said.
Comment:  In the Native arena, the microaggressions include hipsters in headdresses, mascots, and every other stereotypical figure. All the things that naysayers dismiss with belittling comments like "Get over it" and "Don't you have more important things to worry about?"

These responses are the epitome of microaggression. They tell Native people: "Your feelings don't matter. We decide what's right or wrong, not you. We're in control and you're not."

For more on the subject, see:

Pocahotties show depth of microaggressions
Racism causes PTSD in DSM-5
"Little things" have big consequences
Natives experience racism every day
Subtle racism = psychological torture

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