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Discussion Assignment: Microaggressions—Everyday Indignities

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You learned from the video segment with Dr. Sue, “Microagressions in Everyday Life,” that people’s remarks or behaviors can create feelings of uncertainty, inferiority, marginalization, and/or unsettling emotions in others even though no offense is intended—at least not on a conscious level.

In order to increase your ability to recognize microaggressions and to avoid them in your communication with others, you have been asked to concentrate throughout this week on people’s verbal interactions and to identify examples of microaggressions. You will share the results later this week in your Blog assignment. This discussion assignment complements your practical observation exercise by asking you to apply your knowledge of microaggressions to four different situations.

Prepare yourself for the Discussion as follows:

First, review the video “Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” This time, pay particular attention to:

  1. The three definitions of microaggession
  2. The forms and consequences of microaggressions
  3. Hidden messages they send to the target, and
  4. Ways to prevent using microaggressions

Read the following scenarios:

  1. Susan, who is white, attends a staff party at the day care where she works. She is looking for one of her coworkers, Denise. The two women like each other a lot and often attend social events together. Susan spots Denise with a group of other employees who, like Denise, are black. They are talking animatedly, laughing, and apparently having a really good time. Susan waves and Denise leaves the group to join her. Susan sighs and exclaims: “Gee, Denise, why do you people always have to be so loud? Can’t you just calm down like the rest of us?”

  2. Matt works as an early childhood specialist in the pediatric unit of a hospital. His latest “client” is 5 year-old Anh, a Vietnamese immigrant. Whenever Matt talks to her, she casts her eyes down. Her answers are short and her voice is very quiet. Today, Matt sits down next to Anh, brings his face close to the little girl’s, and says softly: “Why are you so quiet? We want to know what you think. Be more verbal! Look at me! What you think is important to us, you know. We want to get to know you better. You have to speak up more, okay?”

  3. Ann and Alejandro are coworkers in a preschool. Alejandro is a newcomer to the staff and Ann has been especially helpful these first months. During one of their shared lunch hours, Alejandro confesses: “You know, Ann, I did not think it would be so hard. I mean, I knew when they hired me that I would be the only Latino teacher. But now, I feel so lonely and, like, most of the others really don’t want anything to do with me.” Ann takes his hand and sighs: “I’m so sorry, Alejandro. And you know, as a woman, I know exactly what you go through, being a racial minority.”

  4. Tim, who is openly gay, works as the new assistant to the president of the local early childhood policy institute. In the six weeks since he joined the team, he has developed excellent relationships with all of his co-workers, especially with Patti. Today they meet in the staff kitchen and Patti tells Tim excitedly about her impending move to a new apartment. As they part, Patti remarks: “Hey, Tim, you know I really could use some help decorating this place. I have no color sense or any ideas about decorating at all but I’m sure you are just fabulous at it! Would you mind helping me?”

Now choose two scenarios and, referring to both, respond to these questions:

  1. Using the categories presented by Dr. Sue, what types of microaggression can you identify in the two scenarios you chose?
  2. What is the hidden “message” each of the targets of microaggression received, (i.e., what was implied but not said)?
  3. What power issues can you discern: Who had power over whom and in what ways? Who was marginalized and in what ways?
  4. Now choose one of the two remaining scenarios and imagine that you are the target of the microaggression: What emotions do you think you would experience?
  5. In what ways might knowledge about and refined awareness of microaggressions help you in your interactions with children and families?

By Wednesday:

Post your response to all five questions

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