LOVE Pilot Program Hosts Second Teach-In on Addressing Microaggressions

By Caitlin Burns | December 7, 2020

By Josephine Mueller ’21

At the LOVE Pilot Program’s second teach-in on “Bias, Microaggressions, Racial Abuse: How Can We Do Better/Heal?”, held on Nov. 10, panelists Dr. Favian Guertin-Martin, associate professor of Criminal Justice; Dr. Prash Naidu, assistant professor of Historical and Political Studies; and Dr. Lauren Reid, assistant professor of Counseling, spoke on microaggressions and how to best handle them. 

Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages toward persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. Dr. Guertin-Martin shared a situation where he experienced a microaggression—racial profiling—when he first joined Arcadia and was working an open house when he was asked what he was doing there.  

“For me, being questioned as to why I was at Arcadia on a Saturday morning, I started to think of what I did wrong,” said Dr. Guertin-Martin. “I wondered if I should have said hello or interacted with the guy or been more friendly. I’m not quite sure, but it starts making you question yourself. When you talk about this form of microaggression, especially in terms of racial profiling, you yourself are now seen as being a criminal. You start thinking of yourself as being a criminal.” 

Dr. Guertin-Martin shared a video that compared microaggressions to mosquito bites: Both are annoying and harmful, and not everyone experiences them the same. In addition, these kinds of “mosquito bites” are cumulative—experiencing them every day, takes a tremendous toll. 

Dr. Naidu discussed how racial trauma and microaggressions manifests itself in our bodies. He shared how microaggressions can even be felt by those who commit them, noting, “microaggressions are things that people feel on and in their bodies. People remember that mosquito bite of microaggressions. It lives in us.”

In addressing the importance of self awareness and sitting with the discomfort, Dr. Reid noted that knowledge of self helps build a buffer to microaggressions and how dehumanizing microaggressions can be. She discussed how being an anti-racist requires constant practice and the understanding that if you engage in a microaggression, you should not become defensive, but should, rather, learn from it. She emphasized that the term “microaggression” caters to white comfort by making it seem like something small. But in reality, there is nothing “micro” about them. This is why Common Read speaker and author of How To Be an Antiracist Ibram X. Kendi prefers “racist abuse,” and no longer uses the term. 

“There is no magic wand; we have to sit with the discomfort, sit with the tension, and do the self growth work to be aware and acknowledge how people feel and react to how they experience it rather than how we feel we’re being perceived and getting defensive about it,” said Dr. Reid.

To view a recording of the second Teach-in, click here.