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The dictionary defines microaggression as an utterance, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. Professor Derald Sue attempts to define microaggression as verbal, conduct, or environmental humiliation, whether deliberate or not, that depict hostility, demeaning, or disrespectful racial comments and insults toward people of color. Microaggressions for long had been part and parcel of literature in institutions of learning but came into lime light through the famous Tumblr Microaggressions –which seeks to highlight the microaggressions people, especially of color confront daily. Photographer Kiyun, for instance asked classmates to write down an example of such microaggression they encounter daily. Majority of her classmates wrote back in reply and to one student, the question had always been which language they spoke in Japan. It came as no surprise to me because, this is one of the questions I also get asked ‘thousand’ times at work. I am always asked, you have an accent, which language do you guys speak in Uganda, French? Despite the fact Uganda was colonized by the British.
Interestingly, Derald. Sue (2010) uses the term microaggression to illustrate how distinction is evidently presented in daily conversations to harm or trivialize people based on color, race/ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality among others. For instance, Wing Sue uses his own incident on a plane to drive the cases of microaggression people of color wrestle with daily. Sue narrates that on that fateful him and his African American friend, aboard a small plane with a few other passengers, the unthinkable happened. Being among the few on the plane, they chose the front seats as per the flight attendant orders. He continues that shortly before takeoff, they were surprised to be called out by the attendant whom he describes as white, to give way for the three white men who had arrived late. This was coded in the attendant’s own words, “to balance” the Though they felt singled out due to their color, they still complied with the request made by the attendant. However, upon expression of their dissatisfaction, the flight attendant ferociously objected their claims, instantly became paranoid and asserted that it was for all intents and purposes meant to maintain flight safety, and their privacy. But how can this even be possible? one can ask. Well, this could just be a tip of iceberg, compared to what black go through daily in the US. indeed, Sue’s story illustrates the extent to which racism is still embodied not only in the politics and economics but also in the minds, hearts and souls of most whites in America. I think most white Americans today are victims of what DiAngelo described as “racial innocence,” which she describes as “a form of weaponized rejection/disclaimer that positions people of color especially black people as haversacks of race and custodians of racial knowledge. Personally, in Seattle, WA I also witness almost a similar incident in which one elderly black male was asked to evacuate his sit at the expense of one white women who seemed dressed smartly and when he tried to resist, he was forcefully ejected out of the bus. When asked why it had to be the “black guy” the white driver instantly replied that it had nothing to do with racism, even when no one had complained of racial discrimination.
Sue’s attempt to find out why she did not ask the white men to move to the back since they had arrived late fell on deaf ears, instead she stood her ground and asserted that they had blown her request out of context and that she saw no atom of ‘color’ in her argument, rather, they were just being ‘overreactive’ and excused herself from any further discussion regarding the matter. Based on Sue’s story, this was not just a behavioral faux pas, or some type of social miscalculation that one makes; for instance, being on phone or computer while talking to someone. This was a clear act of microaggression – (a social construct in which society segregates and tags people based on their color, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality among others). The story of Sue is typical of what has come to be known as ‘white supremacy,’ portraying white people as philanthropic and /or magnanimous to other kinds of people. The impression that white people are benevolent in affording people of color same services as white people evades the truth that all diversity supplements us all.
An article posted in “The New Yorker” by Katy Waldman, tries to analyze how sociologist DiAngelo highlights some of the hindrances towards fighting racism in the United States. In her classic narrative, Waldman attempts to analyze how DiAngelo illustrates how racism has evolved over time. DiAngelo relates these acts of microaggression to a metamorphosing virus. Scientifically, a virus like HIV uses the machinery of the CD4 cells to multiply and/or make copies of itself and spread throughout the body. According to Waldman, DiAngelo relates this to racism which keeps replicating in the mind and body of white people. Thus, any minute sign of detection is met with mimicry and ‘coded’ language in unsuspecting culture to stay alive. She argues that just as a virus replicates, stereotypical and prejudicial acts don’t completely vanish when people resolve to do away with all acts of racism, instead, it manifests in other complicated forms to avoid detection.
An article from Slate magazine also analyzes how the opprobrium related to well-being came to be part and parcel of American way of life. The Magazine details crimes of a one Linda Taylor, a notorious woman implicated of fraudulent cases including vicious masquerading. With all the identities of the woman concealed, divergent versions of the story were run on different media platforms. After the story was run for a while, a survey was conducted. Interestingly, when white participants were asked what they remember about the story on the news media, almost eighty percent of the participants said the woman was a black woman, African-American to be specific whereas fifty percent recall seeing a white woman. This just illustrates one thing, microaggression, where all crime and violence are associated with the black people. It is also a classic case in which class, race, and ethnicity are monumental in determining core facets of present-day life, resilience, significance, wealth, and not only one’s way of life but also how one dies. No wonder, Bryan Stevenson, in a 2018 interview with the Pacific Standard notes that in America today, people of color, black people to be specific, are five times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts. Unfortunately, it suffices to say that ‘post racism’ in today’s America is also a folk tale, just like unicorns, black people who survive the wrath of racism wind up their stay on earth like the end of a horror movie.
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