Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Microaggressions

I was on Twitter one day last week (as I am most days, actually) & someone posted the link to this blog called www.microaggressions.com. The premise of the blog is to make people aware of the small, but powerfully hurtful things that they say everyday. These comments can be categorized as racist, sexist or discriminatory in any way based on a person's "classification", if you will.

I probably spent the better part of an hour or more perusing through these posts. A lot of them I found pretty offensive. Some of them sounded like the receiver of the comment was probably overreacting or misunderstanding what the person was actually trying to say. That could just be my take on it, though.

Here are a few of the posts that I thought were particularly sad or cruel...


"No you can’t like him. It’s the most disgusting thing to mix a Black and an Asian!"

A friend, after I told her I liked a guy at my university. She assumed I was completely Asian, but I come from a biracial marriage. I was hurt, confused, and shocked to be told that interracial relationships are offensive to others.


"Hey! You’re uncle died."

At Uni, walking to class. She was referring to Osama bin Laden, because I am Muslim. Made me feel like shyza, I remembered all the abuse I went through after 9-11.


"I don’t know why she even bothers. If I were her, I’d put a gun in my mouth."

My father, when asked by a clinician to describe how he felt about my schizophrenia. I was horrified.


"I feel so shiftless, no good and guilty. I might go wait by the bench."

My mom, in reference to the fact that I’m disabled and was buying food with food stamps at a grocery store.


"I’m proud of the woman you’ve become. I was so afraid you’d be a lesbian when you were growing up."

My father said that to me when I wore a dress. How am I supposed to come out to him now?


Makes me feel scared, unworthy of love.


It's unfortunate to think about how people can be so thoughtless, or just outright offensive, towards others based on what we perceive to be their imperfections.

It brings the scripture Acts 10:34-35 to mind. Peter declares, "... of a truth I perceive that God is no repecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."

I may be whiter than Wonder bread, but being a woman and being LDS puts me in company with these marginalized individuals. Even though I am confident in both aspects of my life, does that mean that thoughtless remarks aren't going to sting occasionally? Of course not. However, it is up to me what I do with these things in my life. Now, I realize that I will never know what it is like to be Muslim or gay in today's cultural and political climate, and I will never claim to be a voice for all of the oppressed, but there is a degree to which I can relate to some of these prejudices.

I can take in what others say about how weak I am as a woman, or how crazy or close-minded I am as a Mormon, and seeth about how hurtful these comments are, or I can yell and scream and kick down doors until I get my justice. I don't think that either one of those approaches is going to be effective, though.

It's tricky, but I think that there is a fine line that we must balance on in order to protect ourselves from hate while making progress in changing the attitudes that we encouter. How do we do that? I'm not completely sure, but I think that we need to start with recognizing what is in our minds and our hearts. If God is no respecter of persons, what gives me the right to be? I saw an Indian woman, probably mid-20s, walking with an older white guy - most likely a professor - on BYU campus yesterday morning. It made me think of a blog post that I saw on this microaggressions.com site, where an Indian woman wrote in about how she was sitting with a friend (who was also Indian) and they heard two guys make rather loud comments about how "Indian women are so ugly". I couldn't help but think that this random woman that I saw has probably encountered comments like that before, but there she was, walking along with a huge smile on her face as she chatted with the gentleman next to her. It was kind of a sobering moment for me.

So, what do you think? How do you think we can help to change hateful attitudes such as these? How do we break hurtful stereotypes? And in a world where behavior like this seems to be more socially acceptable, how do we teach our children that these things are not okay? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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