Friday, July 24, 2015

Practicing Awareness of Microaggressions

When I experience microaggressions, I normally try to move on beyond the microaggressive actions. So for this week assignment to describe at least one example of a microaggression that I detected this week, I was hoping I could report that I did not experience nor observe any microaggressions this week, but, sadly, I experienced it today, the day before this blog is due to be posted.

In our Week 4 video transcript, Dr. Derald Wing Sue focused on a discussion about verbal microaggressions. So I wondered whether microaggressions could be nonverbal and googled the question. Much to my delight, in a Psychology Today article, the very same Dr. Sue (2010) wrote:

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment (¶2).
The subtle act of microaggression made me feel inferior within the university department I work in. I was in an elevator with my supervisor and a colleague who both were engaged in a conversation in sign language with me. On the next floor, a departmental co-worker stepped in and started talking with my supervisor and colleague with her back to me. She exchanged pleasantries with them before walking away. Both my supervisor and my colleague are two of my dearest friends and are always sensitive to my communication needs. They would not know what just transpired unless I mentioned to them. I chose not to because we were on our way to lunch to wish my colleague good wishes as she’s moving to a new job at a new university.

Normally but not always, I am used to such microaggressions from strangers; but this time, it hurts because that co-worker usually makes me feel like I am a monster when I approach her in her office. I have not given her any reason to feel this way about me. This makes me look for ways to avoid all encounters with her. Ford (2009) talked about strategies he would employ to “simply stay sane in the face of disconnection from a mainstream academic culture.”

It is kind of ironic because our university is concerned about diversity and all types of “-isms,” and here we have a staffer treating me that way within our department. Other employees have accommodated me in my way of communicating through paper/pen and/or emails. Ford (2009) suggested that “institutions of higher education…should make a more concerted effort in considering the challenges faced by students with disabilities in the same ways that efforts have been made to include Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians” (¶6).

Sue, D. W. (November 17, 2010). Microaggressions: More than just race. Psychology Today. Retrieved from:

Ford, A. R. (2009). It's not just about racism, but ableism. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(4), 16.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

I had the privilege of attending a Deaf Women United conference this weekend in Northern California. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary, and how fitting it is that their main topic has been social justice and all of the journeys we take to get from where we are privileged to a place where we understand and respect other people’s cultures and social identities. I have learned a few new things, and am reminded of other things I learned before and forgot.

As I expected, their answers to diversity were more robust than their ideas about culture. They were more knowledgeable and engaged with the topic of diversity. Mostly, we talked about our own social identities, and how some of our “privileges” are both privilege and oppressive.

Most of the responses I got were about the surface cultures that we all are familiar with and learned in our class the past couple of weeks. It includes the languages we speak, the clothes, and values & traditions. However, one of the workshop presenters I asked said how her three social identities often conflict with each other.  She is a Black Deaf Woman. She has three “cultures” where she had to navigate the conflicts between Black/White, Deaf/Hearing, and Woman/Male. She was an angry person who has learned to love people and work through their differences. I learned so much from watching her present her three identities and how she has come to a point where she is embracing each of the three identities she has. She illuminated what Ngo (2008) discussed and suggested, “Rather than whole, seamless, or naturally occurring, culture and identity are the result of differentiation in social relations…they emerge within the play of specific modalities of power, and thus are more the product of the marking of difference and exclusion, than they are the sign of an identical, naturally-constituted unity” (p.6).

We had a discussion where we identified our privilege and our oppression. A few of us talked about how being smart or intelligent is both a privilege and oppressive. It is good to know how other women also share my thoughts. We talked about how some people are just so smart they cannot handle it. Frequently, people do not understand what smart people are talking about and look at them with askance.

Ultimately, the only way we all can understand each other, and start to respect each other is to have a continuing dialogue where we talk through our differences or disagreements. As my Foundations to Early Childhood Education said, it is the responsibility of the education professionals to find out more about each of the child.

Ngo, B. (2008). Beyond "culture clash": Understanding of immigrant experiences. Theory into Practice, 47(1), 4–11.

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Family Culture

Now, if I were to take three small items, I would not know what. Honestly, I have thought hard about what three items I would take with me. I have asked my husband and my son, and they did not know either. I do not know what artifacts in our house represent our family culture. I know what I want to take for my own sanity.

First is all blankets I have in the house because I am always cold!
Second is my laptop that has all of my ideas, thoughts, and papers I wrote.
I cannot think of a third item that I would have to take with me.

If I had to choose just one item to keep, I would keep my laptop because, with it, I can entertain myself with captioned movies, write blogs, use it to communicate with others, and look at family photos.

The only insight I can share is that I have never been materialistic although I appreciate fine things. After a devastating home fire in 2006, we are less attached to our stuff. After we recovered from the loss and rebuilding of our home, we now belong to a very special club – those who lost their homes to fires and rebuilt them.

If you live in Southern California as I do, you are always prepared for wildfires every year. There’s a culture associated with preparing for the wildfires. First, you watch for warnings to evacuate the area. Sometimes, you would be asked to evacuate your home. When and if you have time, you take only the 3Ps – people, pets, and photos. That’s what we all think when preparing to evacuate.

There are not very many items I would take with me other than the three Ps, and, after this exercise, my laptop! That does sound very privileged, and I know my family is.