Microaggressions are Menacing

Throughout my journey as an educator, I have witnessed a series of interesting events, conversations, and interactions within the K-12 space. Over the last few years, I have diligently captured these realities with the hope to illustrate how beliefs impact actions and use this as a platform for change. For the next few blogs, I desire to explore the concept of microaggression.  

What are microaggressions?

Microaggressions are subtle insults (verbal, nonverbal and visual) directed toward people of color, often automatic and done unconsciously, but the impact erodes student motivation, perceptions of oneself, and learners’ ability to meaningfully connect with the school environment. These subtle actions can come in the form of “put downs”, isolation tactics, negative assumptions, and non-verbal gestures that are based on societal stereotypes in America.  Below are two real-world examples of microaggression in different settings.

Example 1

Setting: Middle School in the Mississippi Delta

Below is an actual dialogue that occurred between a middle school teacher and student after the student was sent to the office.

Teacher: You need to sit down and be quiet while in the office.

Student: I wasn’t doing anything

Teacher: You don’t have to be successful!

Student: Oh, I will be successful just not at that (unsure what that was in this context. One could speculate that she was referring to sitting down in the office).

Example 2

Setting: Professional Development Conference for Educators

Facilitator: Please share a success that you have experienced this year.

Educator: I want to share a success this year with my students and their literacy journey. I had students to make enormous growth last school year. I remember celebrating their successes and this was a rough (emphasis on rough) school. These were children who sagged their pants, had slits in their eyebrows and were gang babies.

Me (in my head): Did she just call the children gang babies?

Return to my next blog where we unpack this topic in greater depth, determine how to empower students, and explore suggestions for eliminating microaggressions in the classroom.