The Maverick Diversity Institute at Minnesota State University, Mankato hosted the ‘MicroAggressions: Words have impact’ workshop this past Thursday. The workshop aimed at educating the audience on racial microaggressions and their impact on people of color as well as the means to prevent those situations from unfolding in the classroom.
Discussions on microaggressions and their consequent impacts on students were led by panelists Timothy Berry, Kevin Dover, Dani Scott, and Kenneth Reid.
Dani Scott, Assistant Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders, started the discussion by defining microaggressions and their inherent intent.
“There are many different types of microaggressions. They can look different, the micro part describes the subtle nature of the offense, but the intent shows that it is indeed meant as an offense and is a type of symbolic violence,” said Scott. “Just because they are subtle does not mean they are not impactful.”
Timothy Berry, the interim associate vice president of Faculty Affairs & Equity Initiatives, also added to the discussion and introduced the phycological and physical impact these snubs and remarks can have on the body.
“If we’re going to understand microaggressions in any of its forms, we are going to start with the assumption that it’s assaulting somebody’s physical nervous system. Any assault, any discomfort that triggers the central nervous system to go out whack is not micro,” Berry said.
Recounting his own experiences with racially charged microaggressions Kenneth Reid, the director of African American and Multicultural Affairs, went over the impact microaggressions have and how they influence the way students perform in classes.
“People say in certain areas that you speak so eloquently. As a student, I was asked which school I came from. Why do I have to come from a unique foreign school in order to be able to perform well?” Reid shared.
Reid explained that these types of remarks impact students of color because they end up questioning their ability to perform well academically and lead students to second guess themselves on whether they in fact belong in such academic environments. It creates this mindset that people of color are not expected to perform well and if they do end up performing well then, their success is treated as an unexpected surprise.
Students that deal with such racial microaggressions undergo constant physiological stress that is imposed on them from continuously trying to break the mindset that individuals have towards people of color.
“It does take a mental toll on students. To constantly maneuver around what is accepted or the stereotypes around what people of color should or should not act like. It can be tiring to constantly live up to people’s expectations,” said Reid.
Adding to that discussion, the panelists spoke on the improvements that can be made at the individual level to ensure that students are better educated on microaggressions. The panelists stressed the importance of students expanding their own knowledge base about different cultural backgrounds and encouraged having open conversations to address their own unconscious biases.
“It’s all about encouraging people to see our common humanity. People carry different constructive identities that can overlap. So, it’s about understanding that it’s not just about a person’s skin color, ” added Berry.
Write to Hafsa Peerzada at Syedahafsa.Peerzada@mnsu.edu