25 Stories About Racial Microaggressions At School
BuzzFeed asked its readers to share stories of racial microaggressions when they were in school. The response is published in the article, People Of Color Are Sharing Their Experiences With Racial Microaggressions In School, And Honestly, None Of These Stories Should Ever Have Happened.
“Racial microaggressions are unfortunately very common, and many people of color face them today in many settings — including at school.” Liz Richardson, the author, mentions that the term microaggressions was coined by psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce in the 1970s and is described by Columbia professor Derald Wing Sue as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Her article lists 25 stories. Keep in mind that these are experiences that happened years ago and the pain is still present for these respondents.
Microaggressions have a lasting harmful impact. Here are 5:
1. “I went to a predominantly white private school. Everyone assumed that I, as a person of color, was only there on a scholarship and couldn’t afford it otherwise.”
8. “Where do I even begin? Aside from the usual casual touching of my hair from peers, I was told I didn’t sound Black. Being told I’m ‘well-spoken, considering…’ People being surprised by my intelligence. Getting told that my hair was not an appropriate style when it’s literally my natural hair.”
16. “I was the only Mexican American in my school, and for a long time. Everyone — including people I considered to be close friends — would only refer to me as ‘Mexican,’ as if it were a nickname. I would be poked and prodded as people would ask about my tan, hair texture, and lip size. I once even had a waitress at a local restaurant come up to me, touch my face, and ask, ‘Wow, what are you?’ thinking it was a compliment. It isn’t.”
21. “My teachers wouldn’t pronounce my name properly and didn’t attempt to. I was told not to speak Spanish with my peers because ‘we are in America.'”
24. “I always stuck out, even in Southern California. Growing up, I was one of the few Asian kids in school. I learned at a very young age that people thought it was ‘better’ to be white.” “There were the typical stereotypes: good at math, A student; kids made fun of my name, my food. Also, I was always asked ‘what kind of Asian’ I was, and people were surprised at how well I spoke English. I remember being embarrassed about my heritage and my parents.”
At Buzzfeed, there are a lot of comments to the article. One of the common themes was about the word, microaggressions – that micro makes it sound small. However, micro is not meant to diminish the impact of even one offensive comment or action. People who are targets of microaggressions suffer long-term psychological, mental, and physical health issues. As Dr. Sue writes, microaggressions are small slights that have a macro impact on people, organizations, and communities.
To learn about bystander intervention, how to speak up on behalf of someone who’s the target of a microaggression, take our new e-learning course for a full Test Drive HERE. In the course, Dr. Sue has laid out his strategies for interrupting, countering, and disarming microaggressions. The course has received three awards for excellence and is available as a SCORM 1.2 package so that you can install it in your organization’s LMS.
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