Before the microaggressions panel discussion, I did not have a complete understanding of what a “microaggression” is. Since attending this panel, I have become more able to identify microaggressions on campus and on social media. This event was incredibly relevant to the issue of problematic halloween costumes.
The panel highlighted fundamental characteristics of microaggressions:
- The intent behind a microaggression is not always to cause harm; they may even be intended as a compliment;
- Microaggressions have a cumulative effect on an individual;
- Microaggressions stem from stereotypes and communicate a larger social message of offense.
They then asked, “how can you identify/deal with a microaggression?” The consensus on the panel was that bystanders should call out aggressors and aggressors should take criticism and actively learn from mistakes.
A conversation was struck on the issue of minority opportunity and self-esteem. Many agreed that minorities try to be more “white” to gain opportunity. Representatives encouraged students to stop seeking this form of “approval.” I think this is also on society to stop idealizing whiteness.
This lesson helped me discuss the racist halloween costumes of Davidson College students that flooded our instagram feeds. During the AT session following these posts, I voiced my opinion that while the individuals may not have had harmful intentions, the actions proved worse than a microaggression. Cultural appropriation of African-American hair style on top of the prisoner outfits came across as a mock of mass incarceration of black people.