Clark University students during the first week of classes in Worcester, Mass. Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times
New college students are learning about “subtle insults” — aka microaggressions — reports Stephanie Saul in the New York Times.
The story starts at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
A freshman tentatively raises her hand and takes the microphone. “I’m really scared to ask this,” she begins. “When I, as a white female, listen to music that uses the N word, and I’m in the car, or, especially when I’m with all white friends, is it O.K. to sing along?”
The answer, from Sheree Marlowe, the new chief diversity officer at Clark University, is an unequivocal “no.”
Marlowe warned students to avoid “comments, snubs or insults . . . targeted at people based on their membership in a marginalized group,” reports the Times.
Among her other tips: Don’t ask an Asian student you don’t know for help on your math homework or randomly ask a black student if he plays basketball. Both questions make assumptions based on stereotypes.
“You guys” is out too. It could be interpreted as excluding women.
Microaggressions can be silent.
“What’s an environmental microaggression?” Ms. Marlowe asked the auditorium of about 525 new students. She gave an example. “On your first day of class, you enter the chemistry building and all of the pictures on the wall are scientists who are white and male,” she said. “If you’re a female, or you just don’t identify as a white male, that space automatically shows that you’re not represented.”
A nonverbal microaggression could be when a white woman clutches her purse as a black or Latino person approaches.
Another subset of microaggression is known as the microinvalidation, which includes comments suggesting that race plays a minor role in life’s outcomes, like “Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough.”
I’d call that an opinion.
BTW, a biological male can “self-identify” as female, but a white person can’t self-identify as black, according to Marlowe. Students seemed confused, writes Saul.