Category Archives: Racial Microaggressions

Students Stand Up For All of Us

Perhaps by now you have heard of the great impact a student group at Ohio University has had in sending a loud and clear message about insensitive and racist (not to mention sexist and classist) Halloween costumes.

Their series of PSA posters are moving and informative. Check them out here.

Earlier this week some of us in the Diversity and Equity Office shared our experiences with insensitive and racist Halloween costumes, including memories of flipping through a parents Saint Micheal’s College yearbook from 1975 and seeing students wearing white sheets dressed up as members of the KKK. This type of costume is still part of our lives, and as these Ohio University students suggest, should not be.

It feels good knowing that perhaps there will be more of an absence of costumes that are hurtful.  This leads to more people feeling safe and able to enjoy their surroundings, and this we all deserve!

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Nijaza Šemić Reads Day of the Pelican on VPR

[Listen Here]

Check out this information rich story on VPR about the 2010 Vermont Reads book, The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson.

The VPR story features reading by Nijaza Šemić : community member, mother, wise woman, and Home School Liaison in the Burlington School District and commentary by Rajev Dahal a senior at Burlington High School.

Look out for Katherine Paterson at the 2010 Burlington Book Festival on September 24-26.

And find all four stories from VPR re Day of the Pelican here.  With titles like “Flight: What refugees leave behind when they are forced to leave home”.

Some excerpts:

*The transition to life here is often difficult for refugees. For children, a new life means a new school – one that can be very different from any they have known before. 11-year-old Susma Adhikari is a refugee from Bhutan. She attended school at a refugee camp in Nepal:

(Susma) “In Nepal we have to, in school we have to sit on the floor, mud floor it was kind of dirty, and we had to sit on a mat, here we have our own desks and we have everything we need.  In Nepal we don’t have that much stuff.  There we were really scared from teachers because we had to respect them. It was kind of hard to learn there, but here, everyone is good and nice.”

*(Wertlieb) Filmmaker Mira Niagolova says the Iraqi families she’s observed have also found it difficult to adjust:

(Niagolova) “We have probably about 80 Iraqi families so far and I assume we’ll expect more. In general the Iraqi population is very well educated and they are somehow frustrated because their expectations haven’t been met so far. They want to get back their middle class life that they had in Iraq, but here they’re in a different position. They’re eager to re-establish their middle class life.”

Peggy McIntosh’s Classic Knapsack

A classic short piece on White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh.  White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

Peggy uses her insight as a white woman to create a list of 50 “daily effects of white privilege in
my life”:

#11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the
only member of his/her race.

#27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than
isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

#34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

Getting the Words “Right”

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life (Click the link to read the full report: MicroAggressEverdayLife-1)

Talking about “race” is difficult.  Throughout life many of us are told, in one way or another, that we should not talk about money, politics or religion.  And in the end that produces a bunch of adults who have a hard time having hard conversations.  We stumble for words, we avoid certain phrases, we rack our brains for the latest politically correct term.

Liberation from these stressful conversations begins with finding common language (and taking a deep breathe).  The process of finding common language is not easy, and it is not short.  It involves educating ourselves, doing the hard work, embracing mistakes, and listening to other people’s truths.

Glenn Singleton & Curtis Linton authors of Courageous Conversations About Race list the following four ground rules for having conversations about race:

*Stay engaged

*Speak your truth

*Experience discomfort

*Except and accept non-closure

Perhaps these are good things to remember while reading this report.

The authors of Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life explain that microaggressions are: “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.  Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities”.

Q: Ok, but what does that look like in real life?

A: “When a Latino couple is given poor service at a restaurant and shares their experience with White friends, only to be told ‘Don’t be so oversensitive’ or ‘Don’t be so petty’, the racial experience of the couple is being nullified and its importance is being diminished”.

A: Asking a black person: “Why do you have to be so loud/animated? Just calm down”. This translates to “assimilate to dominant culture”.

Enjoy!  And remember: stay engaged, speak your truth, experience discomfort, and except and accept non-closure.