Produced by Sofi LaLonde, Alexandria Mason and Andy Stoiber
Sofi: What is a microaggression and where does it come from? These UW Madison students explain what they are and share their very own personal experiences from here on campus.
Zawadi Carroll: Hi my name is Zawadi Carroll, I’m from Washington, D.C.
Synovia Knox: My name is Synovia Knox, I’m from Madison, Wisconsin.
Austin Gladden: Hello, my name is Austin Gladden, I’m from Largo, Maryland.
Kenneth Jackson: Hello, my name is Kenneth Jackson, I’m from Washington D.C., D.C. possy 7.
Janae Hu: Hi, my name is Janea Hu and, wait, what’s next?
Alexandria Mason: Where you’re from.
JH: Oh I’m from China.
Mariam Coker: My name is Mariam Coker. I am the chair of the Equity & Inclusion Committee housed in ASM.
ZC: My definition of a microaggression are ways that people perpetrate systems of oppression unintentionally.
AG: Acting in a racist way without fully knowing it. And, even if you do fully know it, just brushing it under the rug.
SK: Someone intentionally or unintentionally saying something or doing something that’s derogatory, racist or stereotypical, or just promotes something that isn’t true, like based on an assumption.
KJ: My definition of a microaggression would have to be something that is inconspicuous or under the table and that’s usually comments and/or gestures. And it’s something that’s played off or downplayed as a joke or something playful when it’s something really much more serious and that actually tells you how a person truly feels about you. It’s usually a byproduct of racial tensions or racial issues.
JH: For example, somebody telling you that, ‘I’m not racist, but…,” and then you what you’re going to hear next.
MC: Microaggressions, by definition, are small and seemingly insignificant instances that happen to marginalized groups or marginalized people to remind them that they don’t belong.
ZC: A microaggression I’ve experienced here is when I had to do group work in my French class, and it was a group of three and it was me and two other white girls. They literally just talked to each other and kind of ignored me and I was literally invisible to them.
SK: An example of that would be me being in my Afro-Am class and our professor talking about the inequality between like what a black home brings in versus what a white home brings in, in terms of income. Someone from the lecture just yelled out like, no hand raised, ‘oh does that include affirmative action and assisted housing and living for blacks and latinos,’ not including any other race. Just said it flat out, and I was like like “wow.”
KJ: My personal example of a microaggression would have to be the fact that in every class that I take, since I am the only black person in the classes, I have a buffer zone which I call “the black bubble” of two seats in either direction in which people just will not sit next to me or interact with me in the classes.
AG: Um, an example of that would be, being in my french class, I was the only black person in that class. Even though we would have group assignments and everything, no one would talk to me. When I went to go talk to the professor about it, he dismissed me.
JH: Also, because I’m not really a stereotypical Chinese student, like I hang out with a lot of American students, so I’m kinda isolated by a lot of Chinese students here. They would just be like, ‘oh you don’t belong to us because you hang out with American students.’ Or American students would just be like, ‘why don’t you hang out with Chinese international students but hang out with us?’ I kind of feel [excluded] by both, you know.
MC: And you know the little staircases by the education building, I was going up there and there was a group of white people going down. I looked up and was just like, ‘nope’ and put in my headphones, but my music wasn’t ready yet, so I heard what they were saying. They sung “A Whole New World” from Aladdin at me, and then I realized it was because I’m Muslim. And then I’m like, wait I’m not Arab, but wait, so does that mean I’m not black? It was a really weird situation because I got offended for something that is not really me. Like, I guess it’s because I’m Muslim? But Aladdin is more about the Middle East than being Muslim than anything else. So it’s like, oh, I got insulted for a culture I’m not even a part of.
ZC: Um, so that’s an example of when I felt like, me being a black woman was a reason for, exclusion, I guess, in a way.