By Micaela Ricaforte, guest writer
On Jan. 26, the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence hosted a workshop and luncheon for students, faculty and staff seeking to open up dialogue about diversity on campus.
Faculty Support Director Stephanie Fenwick, Ed. D., and Office of Women’s Development Director Elaine Richardson, Psy, D., led the workshop in a discussion about microaggressions and the impact on the APU learning community. They spoke to an audience of about 50 students, faculty and staff members in an effort to facilitate a conversation about what APU can do to stop acts of microaggression and to bring solidarity on campus.
“We want you to imagine what it would be like for us as a community to come together to learn and have some authentic conversations with those who are different than we are, because that is where it all comes together,” Richardson said. “Until the conversation becomes authentic and you decide that this is [our] responsibility, it won’t change, and we are a community that is growing, changing, and learning together.”
Fenwick and Richardson gave information on microaggression during their presentation at the beginning of the workshop. A microaggression is an indirect, subtle or unintentional act of discrimination toward a member of a marginalized group. Microaggressions can be non-verbal insults or subtle biases based on race, gender, class, sexuality or physical ability. A person experiencing a microaggression often feels that they cannot confront the issue because it was subtle or unintentional.
Though the concept is not new, the term has gained popularity in recent years after Derald Wing Sue, a professor at Columbia University, published a book called “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation.” After the presentation, Fenwick and Richardson played a clip from a PBS News Hour Series “Race Matters” featuring an interview with Sue, to further explain microaggression and insidious bias.
“The word ‘microaggression’ is much more prevalent in the news today,” Fenwick said. “It’s such a timely topic. This conversation is critical in higher education. We see potential for this conversation to foster trust in our environment.”
Stephanie Fitch, a career consultant at the Center for Career and Calling, advises people to correct microaggressions in a kind manner instead of calling out the mistake.
“Just to be a voice for the person [who is being discriminated against] – it means something.” Fitch said.
She suggests that it is more effective to ask a clarifying question that brings attention to the injustice of the question.
“If you are experiencing a microaggression or you see it happening to someone else and not addressing it, hoarding your feelings can create self-hatred,” Al Rivera, a graduate student in the College Counseling and Student Development department, said. “I think as a country we like to say we’ve become colorblind, but that is not the case for minorities; racism and microaggressions are still experienced frequently by minorities. Creating situations like this where we can talk and people from all backgrounds can share experiences opens our minds.”
The Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence has planned a wide variety of events this semester where APU community members can continue the conversation and share their experiences.
Their next event will be on the topic of supporting under-represented first generation students on Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 3:30-5 pm in Wilden Hall, Room 119. For more information, please visit their website at apu.edu/cdeie.