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Recognizing and Challenging Microaggressions

  1. Recognizing and Challenging Micromessaging CENTER FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
  2. Checking Assumptions • No one is immune from inheriting individual, institutional and societal biases associated with social identities • Socialized into racist, sexists, heterosexist, and cissexist beliefs • What is cissexism? – We live in a society that assumes gender based on genitals. When we are born, we are assigned a gender based on our genitals – “Transgender” refers to people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth – Cissexism is the belief and treatment of transgender people as inferior to cissexual (non-trans) people
  3. Checking Assumptions Continued • The danger of these beliefs/biases lies in their nature, which is: – Invisible to the perpetrator – Subtle – Usually outside the level of conscious awareness • The presumed innocuous impact of the enactment of these bias make micromessaging one of the most harmful forms of oppression
  4. Exploring Microaggressions As A Form Of Micromessaging • The term was originally developed in 1970 by Chester M. Pierce, a Harvard psychiatrist, as a way to refer to both verbal and non- verbal racial indignities targeting African Americans • Discussion of microaggressions often focuses on race. However, it is important to note that the term can be used to describe slights directed towards other marginalized groups • Alvin Poussaint refers to the cumulative impact of experiencing microaggressions as “death by a thousand nicks.”
  5. Definitions • Microaggressions: The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership
  6. Definitions Continued • Microinsults: Behaviors, actions, or verbal remarks that convey rudeness, insensitivity, or demean a person’s group or social identity or heritage (Sue, et. al. 2007) • Themes include: – Criminality/Assumption of criminal status – Ascription of Intelligence – Second-class citizen – Assumption of Abnormality
  7. Definitions Continued • Microinvalidations: Actions that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of people who represent different groups (Sue, et. al. 2007) • Themes – Alien in one’s own land – Color blindness – Denial of racism – Myth of meritocracy
  8. Definitions Continued • Microassaults: Conscious and intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets or deliberately serving a White person before a person of colour in a restaurant (Sue, et. al. 2007) • Most likely to occur: 1) Where anonymity is present 2) Where the individual feels safe to express that belief, such as with like- minded individuals 3) When the individual loses control
  9. Impact of Microaggressions • May more strongly and negatively impact the well-being and self-esteem of oppressed individuals and groups than traditional, more overt acts of racism, sexism, cissexism, and heterosexism • Specific impacts for oppressed include: – Invalidation of group identity or experiential reality – Sends the message that they are lesser human beings – Suggests they do not belong with the majority group – Threatens and intimidates – Relegates them to inferior status and treatment
  10. Racial Microaggressions • Generally occur below the level of awareness of well-intentioned individuals • Aversive Racism can be compared to racial microaggressions • Aversive racists believe that they champion egalitarian values, are non-prejudiced, and would never deliberately discriminate, however, they harbor unconscious biased attitudes that have the potential to results in oppressive actions.
  11. Examples Of Racial Microaggressions Theme Microaggression Message Color Blindness Statements that indicate that a White person does not want to acknowledge race “When I look at you, I don’t see color.” “America is a melting pot.” Denying a person of color’s racial / ethnic experiences. Assimilate / acculturate to the dominant culture. Denying the individual as a racial / cultural being. Ascription of Intelligence Assigning intelligence to a person of color on the basis of their race. “You are a credit to your race.” “You are so articulate.” Asking an Asian person to help with a Math or Science problem. People of color are generally not as intelligent as Whites. It is unusual for someone of your race to be intelligent. All Asians are intelligent and good in Math / Sciences. Wing, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, Esquilin (2007).
  12. Gender Microaggressions • “Devalue women’s contributions, objectify them as sex objects, dismiss their accomplishments and limit their effectiveness in educational environments” (Morrison & Morrison, 2002)
  13. Examples Of Gender Microaggressions Theme Microaggression Message Second-Class Citizen Occurs when a target group member receives differential treatment from the power group. In class, an instructor tends to call on male students more frequently than female ones. The contributions of female students are less worthy than the contributions of male students. Sexist Language Terms that exclude or degrade women. Use of the pronoun “he” to refer to all people. Male experience is universal. Female experience is invisible.Wing, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, Esquilin (2007).
  14. Sexual Orientation Microaggressions • LGB microaggressions fit into nine categories: 1) Use of heterosexist terminology 2) Endorsement of heteronormative culture and behaviors 3) Assumption of universal LGBT experience 4) Exoticization 5) Discomfort or disapproval of the LGB experience 6) Denial of societal heterosexism 7) Assumption of sexual pathology or abnormality 8) Denial of individual heterosexism 9) Threatening physical behaviors
  15. Examples of Sexual Orientation Microaggressions Theme Microaggression Message Denial of Individual Heterosexism A statement made when bias is denied. “I’m not homophobic. I have gay friends.” I could never be oppressive toward LGB people because I have friends who are gay. Heterosexist Language Terms that exclude or degrade LGBT persons. Someone asking a lesbian woman “so who is the man in the relationship?” A relationship is only valid when there is a male figure present Wing, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, Esquilin (2007).
  16. Transgender Microaggressions • Conflate sexual non- normativity with gender nonnormativity • Microaggressors address trans people with incorrect gender pronouns, call them by former names, inquire about their “real” identity, ask them to explain their gender identity, and deny or fail to acknowledge their pronouns, name, or identity (Nadal, Skolnik, and Wong 2012;Nordmarken 2012; Nordmarken and Kelly, forthcoming)
  17. Examples Of Transgender Microaggressions Theme Microaggression Message Cissexist Language Terms that exclude or degrade transgender individuals Being forced to choose Male or Female when completing basic forms. Transgender erasure and invisibility Missgendering To deliberately call someone a gender other than what they are presenting. A trans man is miss- gendered by his professors (whether intentionally or unintentionally) Your identity is of no consequence to me and/or your expression and mannerisms do not fit my stereotypical view of your gender Wing, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, Esquilin (2007).
  18. What Do Microaggressions Say About Us? • Active manifestations of our perspectives and worldview of: – Inclusion/exclusion – Superiority/inferiority – Normality/abnormality – Desirability/undesirability
  19. Physical Impacts of Microaggressions • Overall, poorer health • Positively correlated with depression (Araujo & Borrell, 2006) • Increased suicidal ideation, increased state & trait anxiety, and increased depression (Hwang & Goto, 2008) • Increased blood pressure levels (James, Lovato, & Khoo, 1994, as cited by Sue, 2010)
  20. Microaggressions & Tech Students • Negatively impacts the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented student populations • Impacts student’s performance on exams and assignments • Affects problem-solving ability and work productivity • Have students and colleagues question their qualifications
  21. More Harmful Impacts • More likely experience being “the only one” that leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness (Alexander & Moore, 2008) • Lack mentors who possess knowledge of the “minority experience” (Stanley, 2006) • Have their research and scholarship devalued and considered illegitimate (Guzman, Trevino, Lubuguin, & Aryan, 2010) • Causes URMs to experience the campus climate as isolating, alienating, extremely stressful, risky and invalidating (Harlow, 2003; Stanley, 2006; Turner, Gonzalez & Wood, 2008)
  22. Gaining Perspective • The lack of other marginalized students, faculty, and administrator (environmental microaggression) sends the message that: 1) You and your kind are not welcome here 2) If you choose to come to our campus, it will be up to you to “fit in” 3) If you choose to say, there is only so far you will advance 4) The odds are against you
  23. Recognizing Microaggressions On Campus • Because we are looking for blatant expressions of discrimination it is easy to overlook microaggressions • The first step is to recognize the potential impact of a statement, and how these messages may be one of the thousand little “cuts” that an underrepresented student experiences on any given day • It might be a microaggression if you find your self using the following qualifier: – "I'm not trying to be racist/sexist/cissexist/heterosexist, but...
  24. Addressing & Eliminating Microaggressions • Become aware of your own unconscious bias • Be observant – notice reactions • Interrupt microaggressions (3-step process) •That’s not okay •That’s problematic Name It •I don’t like that •I’m not comfortable with that Claim It •Please don’t use sexist language •Please don’t make racist comments Stop It