NC State admin calls microaggressions 'death by a thousand paper cuts'
North Carolina State University will host a microaggressions workshop on Halloween about responding to slights like seeing a Confederate flag or encountering mean messages on social media.
According to NC State News, the “Recognizing and Responding to Microaggessions” workshop will teach students about a variety of microaggressions, such as “horizontal oppression,” “environmental” microaggressions, “macroaggressions,” and “microassaults.”
The three-hour workshop is meant to help students, staff, alumni, or other attendees understand when microaggressions occur and how to respond when they do occur, and is one of many such sessions hosted by the school’s GLBT Center, supplementing offerings such as “Trans 101,” “The Spectrum of Sex: Exploring Intersex Identities and the Relationship to Gender,” and “Sitting with Privilege.”
“It’s sometimes called ‘death by a thousand paper cuts,’” explained Renee Wells, director of the university’s GLBT Center. “There’s this cumulative emotional effect that leaves people feeling marginalized and invalidated.”
Common examples of microaggressions are remarks suggesting that Asians get good grades, suggesting that women are bad drivers, or asking an African American student whether he got an athletic scholarship, Wells noted, but added that there are other, more subtle types of microaggressions, as well.
“For example, a student walking across campus might see a Confederate flag in the window of a residence hall or a racist slur spray painted in the Free Expression Tunnel,” she observed, saying, “these are things that you see that aren’t necessarily targeted at you, but are part of the environment you are navigating.”
Vitriolic sentiments on social media, meanwhile, constitute what Wells describes as “microassaults,” because unlike microaggressions, they are intentional.
“Microaggressions include things you might consider macroaggressions, things that are intentional and overt—people using racist slurs—which are microassaults,” Wells said.
Even members of marginalized groups must be wary of microaggressions, she continued, asserting that “horizontal oppression” takes place when a member of one minority group microaggresses against another minority.
“You may be culturally competent as it relates to your own identity and community...but that doesn’t mean that you’re culturally competent about communities you’re not a part of,” she explained. “The ultimate form of privilege is having the option of not challenging oppressive behavior; to say it’s not my problem.”
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