Microaggressions panel confronts unsubtle biases

The Maverick Diversity Institute held a panel on microaggressions in the Centennial Student Union Wednesday. Faculty members Angelica Aguirre, Sudarshana Bordoloi, Kerry Diekmann, Alfredo Duplat, Pakou Lee and Jessica Schomberg each spoke on their personal experiences as targets and perpetrators of microaggressions and shared resources and advice on confronting them.

The panel defined microaggressions as “brief and commonplace” words or actions that communicate a hostile attitude toward marginalized groups “whether intentional or unintentional.” This behavior is harmful because it is subtle enough to go unrecognized by bystanders and leaves the target invalidated. Their powerpoint read, “Those pointing out microaggressions are labeled troublemakers, hard to work with, angry, divisive, hypersensitive or disruptive.” Microaggressive actions are targeted at aspects of class, gender, sexual identity and, most notably, race.

Aguirre shared a personal experience as a target of a microaggression. While talking to a hotel employee about getting a last-minute room because her shuttle to Mankato from the Minneapolis airport was canceled, Aguirre said he exhibited an attitude that implied she could not afford their rates. She said he looked at her casual travel attire and said “They’re kind of pricey. Do you know how much they cost?” Aguirre ended up getting a room for the night at that hotel and it was not until later, in her room, that she began to question his demeanor.

“I’m telling you I want to stay here, why do you have to ask me a question?” she recalled thinking to herself.

She then segued into confrontation strategies. Aguirre said, in that instance, she chose not to return to the front desk to question the employee’s true meaning. But, the panel provided steps for holding a “microintervention,” or a conversation with a microaggressor about the impact of their actions. Validation was the key maneuver identified. Defending the behavior with “I bet they didn’t mean to” only highlights the root issue; the subtlety goes unnoticed by nearly everyone but the target.

Schomnberg spoke on the importance of being receptive to call-outs on your own microaggressive behaviors. “I don’t like being embarrassed but I like getting better,” Schomberg said.

The Maverick Diversity Institute offers workshops and speaking events to educate Minnesota State students and faculty on inclusivity, access and equity. They encourage students to attend events by offering LinkedIn badges and apparel to those who register for a qualifying number of events.

Diekmann said the best way to open oneself to education on microaggressions is “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.” 

Header photo: Pakou Lee speaks to a crowd about the harmful impact of microaggressions. Panelists shared stories of experiencing microaggressions, resources for students to utilize and advice on how best to confront them. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Carly Bahr at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.