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Day 5: 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge

Welcome to Day 5.  Missing something?  Go here to start at Day 1 and here for yesterday.

What does microaggression mean to you?  Here is a short video that gives many different voices on their thoughts. After watching the video did it change your view at all?  Can you think of any examples in your own experience either witnessed or something you have done that would be a microaggression?

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Day 5

One of the things I have noticed about people's reactions when its pointed out to them that something they have said or done is offensive is that their first reaction or statement is always something along the lines of "well I didn't mean it to be hurtful" or "I didn't mean it in a bad way".

It's similar to something my child would often do. When they would step on my foot or knock into me and I would say "ouch" or something, their first comment would be, "I didn't mean to hurt you." I started to reply, "I understand that, but it still hurt. The pain doesn't go away because the intention wasn't there." At first they would be a little touchy about if, and then eventually, I noticed a shift and instead of that reaction they would tell me, "sorry that hurt, can I do something to help?". I think we need to do the same thing when we realize that we have hurt or offended them. Instead of instinctively trying to defend our actions, we should stop and think about what that person needs instead. Sometimes just the acknolwedgement that something was painful and that you want to make it right helps more than anything.
We need to take on that discomfort instead of trying to distance ourselves from it. I had a teacher once that told me that the emotions I was trying to push away or run from, were the ones I should stop and hold in my mind for a bit because the very fact they scared or discomforted me was probably because they were the ones I needed to deal with the most.

Expanding networks

Very helpful videos!

I recently agreed to attend a meeting with two black educators who are reaching out for support for promoting black history education, and I have to admit that my primary motivation was to extend my social and political spheres beyond their current all-white composition. I know that I need to hear black voices in person more than I have recently, but am I committing a kind of microaggression? Am I exploiting someone else’s race for my own benefit? This is the first period—for the past five years—that I’ve lived in a community (southern Maine) in which I didn’t have black, Hispanic, Asian friends, and I’m feeling isolated. Any feedback?

my view...listeners and learners

I too am trying to expand my networks and want to create a life with more diversity and worry about how my privilege, bias, and ignorance will show themselves.  There is my tendency to try to solve problems and my desire to help and thinking I know how to answer the questions. There is my behavior in meetings and groups where I am used to speaking up and giving my view rather than sitting back and listening.   There is my incredible natural curiosity and wanting to ask questions about things that perhaps is not always the role of the other people in the room.  

I think I will probably commit microaggressions because of my blind spot, but I have to be willing to accept criticism, continue to learn and grow and I think I do not remove those blind spots until I grow my networks and my view.  I have to be open, be as clear as I can, to not be defensive, listen and learn.   So we may have to go in quietly and watch and learn and then engage....maybe....


New to me

Until a few days ago, I had never even heard the term microaggression. The very concept is still pretty new to me. Sadly, I think I have probably been the perpetrator of microaggressions without even knowing it. I can't change the past so I'm not devoting a lot of time and energy to going back and mentally replaying every recent interaction. Instead, now that I'm more aware, I'm simply trying to do better going forward.

Day 5

Waiting for the bus this morning at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Probably 10 or 15 people, mostly white. A white woman asks another white woman a question about the bus schedule and she says, politely and kindly, I don't know why don't you ask him - "him" meaning a black man standing in line with the rest of us. He and others quickly tell her he's a passenger not an employee of the bus company and he doesn't seem in the least offended, but it was clear she thought he worked there because of his race.

compassion for all

"I do not want to deny anyone's pain but I cannot imagine interacting in a world with differences without pain" -- the final words of the video. This makes me sad because I can imagine it but maybe I am just too idealistic and my own privilege lets me believe it. However when I go to this site and I see the painful heart of his words. (http://www.microaggressions.com/)

Microaggressions are real. Yes, they hurt. I do believe they come from privilege ignorance and confusion. Yes, we need to awaken to the bias and racism that underlies our misconceptions. The word micro is the wrong way to define it because it is not that it is small and it minimizes the feeling for the aggressor rather than the one who experiences it. To me, it is an example of the dominant culture naming something that makes them feel better rather than naming it from the perspective of the minority.

When I talk to people about microagressions, I hear comments about how oversensitive people have become and the victim mentality is the real problem. I often say in response what is the harm of trying to be sensitive to others feelings and being compassionate...what would be so wrong in trying to treat someone with respect and love. Everyone seems to agree to that but I feel that they do not truly understand why it hurts someone - I mean it is just one little word, one phrase, or it was meant as a joke or we are friends so they understand what I mean. We are uncomfortable even acknowledging this is an unkind way to treat people little less our part in it.

To me, this is an example of white fragility more than the "victim mentality". "We" seem very oversensitive about having to understand and change to respect the differences around us. Why is it asking a lot of the dominant culture to understand our bias and privilege and how it impacts our language and interactions with other? Why is it so painful for the dominant culture to understand that we are hurting people?

I liked the woman in the video who said something like it is about time you felt uncomfortable.... I think about the feeling of being uncomfortable and how many people in this country have been uncomfortable for a long time, even during Obama's presidency. I have been blissfully unaware thinking that with a liberal president, with a liberal agenda all was well and I disengaged in trying to be part of the solution for many years. However, as I learned more about privilege and systemic racism, I learned more about how I was asleep at a time when I needed to be engaged.

Today many people feel very uncomfortable about our new government and I really hope they use this feeling to engage in change. However, I am not encouraged that we are learning how to deal with differences in a way that does not cause pain. I am hopeful that perhaps this is driving a conversation that can build the path for that change.

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