One of our items might have caught your eye - This is one of our statement pieces called 'microaggression sweater'.
"To be clear, the 'micro' in microaggression doesn't mean that these acts can't have big, life-changing impacts, (Limbong, 2020)."
What is a microaggression?
a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.
indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.
Microaggressions can be, but not limited to, comments, actions, or lack thereof that present an assumption or bias about someone.
Examples of common microaggressions
"You are so articulate!"
"You sound white"
"Is your hair real?!"
These are all comments that can lead the person you are talking to, to see your assumptions about them or start to believe these assumptions about themselves.
Microaggressions can be something as simple as asking a student of color if they play on the football team or if they want to play for college instead of simply asking them what their hobbies are.
"They're something very specific: the kinds of remarks, questions, or actions that are painful because they have to do with a person's membership in a group that's discriminated against or subject to stereotypes. And a key part of what makes them so disconcerting is that they happen casually, frequently, and often without any harm intended, in everyday life" (Desmond-Harris, 2015).
Why are microaggressions so harmful?
"Research has shown that microaggressions, although they're seemingly small and sometimes innocent offenses, can take a real psychological toll on the mental health of their recipients" (Desmond-Harris, 2015).
When we are told over and over again that something is expected of us, sometimes we start to believe that - or have an identity crisis.
Our specific microaggression item is created with microaggressions that I (Cordell) have experienced throughout my life. My mother is white and of 100% French descent and my father is black and of African descent. I take much pride in being BOTH, but I've always felt that I was never black enough to fit into one side, while also feeling the systemic pressure and racism of being black in America on the other. If I talked a certain way with one group, I would be expected to talk a different way with another (aka code switching). I often was told that I when I talked, I sounded "white," or on the other hand told I don't sound black or "ghetto." It created a real struggle with my own identity. I was constantly code switching from one group to another, and because of this, I often lost track of who the person in the middle of all it was: Me.
Coming into my own individuality was and continues to be a daily struggle, especially in today's social environment where it seems you have to pick a side (in my case white or black). We made this item to not only bring awareness to some of the microaggressions that others may have experienced, but to also make a statement that these do not have to define who I am as an individual. No person who is mixed should ever have to feel like they need to choose a side! Just be yourself!
"We navigate all of these things in our lives," Nadal says. "For many of us on a daily, hourly basis. And for some of us where we might not even recognize that we are navigating them or even perpetrating them." (Limbong, 2020). Most of the time, people don't even realize the comments they are making are considered microaggressions. Being an educator in a building that was mostly made up of Hispanic and African American students, this was something I had to check even myself on. Most people mean well - they really do! So why does it happen?
So, what now?
We all have blind spots or biases and that is NORMAL. I was once told in a teacher training for diversity that having biases is not my fault, but it is my responsibility. I have tried to live by those words since. We often have blind spots or biases because we create single stories about a group of people in our head. There is a video about single stories below if you want to hear more. But we are essentially making assumptions about groups of people.
An activity I used to do with my students to check our own biases was to write down 10-15 people that you trust. Write down their ethnicity, language, age, gender. Look for their similarities and differences. Then ask yourself what do you notice about your "circle" of people? Someone that is far different from this circle could be a group that you potentially could have single stories about.
Talking about race or biases can be uncomfortable but it is one of the best things you can do to gain understanding. Here are some steps to take moving forward:
- Know your biases - again, they are not your fault but your responsibility
- Seek out conversations with people different than you and really listen to them
- Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
"Do your own work before you even get there. Read blogs and personal essays, understand the lived experiences of historically marginalized groups, watch documentaries and try to think outside of your own perspective" (Limbong, 2020).
Desmond-Harris, Jenee. (2015) What exactly is a microaggression? https://www.vox.com/2015/2/16/8031073/what-are-microaggressions
Limbong, Andrew. (2020) Microaggressions Are A Big Deal: How To Talk Them Out And When To Walk Away. https://www.npr.org/2020/06/08/872371063/microaggressions-are-a-big-deal-how-to-talk-them-out-and-when-to-walk-away