Ava DuVernay on Microaggressions

Netflix is out with a new show on Colin Kaepernick’s early life, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay. She explains what motivated her to do a story about a famous person, which is, in her own words, “not my thing”. She discusses how she got interested – “But as I start to hear his stories, and all the microaggressions, and all the little things that make up someone who had eventually become an American icon, a singular figure in American culture, it became really fascinating me to use his life as a springboard into larger conversations about race, caste, class, identity, representation, all that good stuff. And so, we collaborated in that way. And through that, he was able to speak and express himself.” Kaepernick was raised by his adoptive white parents and grew up in predominantly white societies in Wisconsin and then California dairy country. The show is worth a watch to expand your awareness of what it is like for a biracial teenager to grow up inside a white majority world of sports. DuVernay continues to share why it was important to her. “For many people of color, people who are outside of the box or outside the dominant culture, these little microaggressions, these little things that just feel like paper cuts are looms large in the — in the formation and construction of who we are as, you know, larger societal institutional issues. And so, I think for me, it`s someone who`s often you know, analyzing and interrogating race in class and my work, the idea that we can look at the small infractions, right, and to see how much that is molding us to become who we are, became really interesting to me.” This is such an important point about microaggressions and what we’ve been exploring here at SunShower in our work with Dr. Derald Wing Sue to educate people about the harmful impact of microaggressions. The longterm effect of receiving microaggressions on a person’s physical, psychological and emotional health is well documented. This is why workplaces need to not only raise awareness but also give people skills to speak up to interrupt microaggressions when they happen. His microintervention strategies, outlined in our course Disarming Microaggressions, are important to learn. (Review) [link to our page for Disarming Microaggressions] In a recent call with Dr. Sue, he spoke to me about how microaggressions are unintentional expressions of bias. He encouraged me to think of them as reflections of internal superiority that is outside the conscious awareness of a person. This means it’s incumbent on all of us to become more aware how we were each conditioned to raise our awareness of assumptions about people and situations so that we can be more intentional to monitor and take different actions. I highly recommend “Colin in Black & White” on Netflix.

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