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The meme above seems to perfectly describe how I feel about microaggressions and overarching racism. It just appears to be everywhere. However, it's not appearing how it used to. Before, racism was much more overt. You could definitely point at something and identify it as outright racism. Today, racism occurs completely under the radar. It's not dead. It's just happening in different ways. Also, if you weren't completely aware, microaggressions are defined as, "brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership."
1. "So is Posse like a gang you're in?"
I arrived on Centre's campus a week before classes eager to partake in orientation. I introduced myself to my orientation group and hoped for the best. I also emphasized the fact that I was at Centre on a merit and leadership scholarship called Posse. The scholarship entails sending 10 individuals from the same city to attend college together as a support network. I was so proud to share this background until a member of my orientation group asked, "So is Posse like a gang you're in?" I was completely shocked that anyone could think that I was capable of being a part of a gang. Ultimately, it was clear that this person assumed I was in a gang because of the way I looked and where I am from. I am clearly Hispanic. There's no hiding that. My behavior during orientation definitely didn't warrant the line of questioning. This was simply a subtle attack of my ethnicity or a microaggression.
2. "Can you even get a passport?"
I was discussing study abroad options with a professor when she turned to me and asked, "Can you even get a passport?" Again, an attack on my ethnicity. The professor was so convinced by stereotypes concerning immigration and Hispanics that she could not fathom my being an American citizen. This was beyond me. I was born in downtown Boston. My citizenship had never been questioned prior to this point. This microaggression is probably the worst of the worst (so far).
I ultimately made it to Morocco and Spain (with my passport).
3. "I like your hair better straight."
I'm always challenged on this being a microaggression, but it definitely is. The preference of straight hair isn't a coincidence. It's the result of prevailing white beauty standards. Individuals of color are rewarded for adhering to a beauty standard that simply is not their own. At the same time, natural or ethnic hair is considered "bad", "nappy", "unruly", etc. How is this not a microaggression? The message is clear. Society values white beauty standards over any sort of authentic beauty that doesn't include pin straight blonde hair. With that being said, don't tell me that my hair looks better straight. I promise I won't take it as a compliment.
4. "You talk like a white girl."
Growing up, I remember just about everyone telling me this. It was beyond frustrating because I just did not understand how I talked like a white girl. When I asked how, individuals would respond that I used "big" or "fancy" words. Let's just debunk this altogether. I use "big" or "fancy" words because I'm articulate. Being articulate is not a characteristic of a specific race or ethnicity. This microaggession stems from the belief that only whites could be educated and therefore speak in an eloquent manner. This is stupid. Please never say this another person.
These are just a few of the microaggressions I get on a daily basis. I'm also asked/told constantly:
Where are you really from?
You speak English very well.
I don't see your color.
You're so bossy.
I could go on for days. Moral of the story? Watch what you say.