By Georgia Wyess
Racism has been a pertinent issue throughout history, especially more so during our generation. Beginning with Martin Luther’s March on Washington, racial injustices have finally received the attention they deserve. However, with a history so deeply ingrained racism in itself, simply halting racist actions proves a feat in itself. Moreover, many everyday actions can be racist without us even realising, merely because we learned such gestures and believed certain stereotypes growing up.
With that said, racial microaggressions must be addressed with the same vigor as larger racist actions. Before we dive into specific examples of such phrases and actions, we must first understand what these small attacks are. Racial microaggressions, miniscule gestures, have a twinge of prejudice and bigotry in. Petty phrases against someone’s race or using someone’s culture to explain their behavior may be seen as onsets. Thus, let’s look into some examples of these phrases:
- “So, what Asian are you?” might sound harmless, however, by asking such a question, you are looking at the person and seeing only their race; ergo, defining them by what you see on the outside. Instead, ask someone, “what is your heritage?” Such a question opens up the possibility of a discussion and further questions to improve understanding of someone’s culture, rather than just seeing them as “asian.”
- “What are you?” has the same issue as the phrase above. By asking “what,” you are dehumanizing your peer to that of an object. What am I? Human. I am a person that deserves the same respect as anyone else because we’re all people. Instead of asking, “what are you?” ask in lieu, “what is your family background?” or, again, “what is your heritage?”
- Constantly pinning the Russian as the villain in a movie or in a skit is another form of a microaggression. Understandably, the United States greatly feared conflict with Russia during the Cold War; however, not all Russians are bad or have something against others because of what happened in the past. Rather, recognize that we all have different backgrounds, but one’s race or ethnic heritage does not define them as a person.
- Constantly pinning the Hispanic as the drug dealer or the rapist in films, books, and other forms on media. When looking at the likelihood of whites versus Hispanics to become criminals, both are equally as likely to cause the same conflict. The only difference is that one receives more opportunity than another. Acknowledge that one may have had more opportunity, and approach everyone with equal sympathy.
- “But you’re Indian, aren’t you good at math?” or “But you’re Asian, aren’t you good at math?” are phrases that give into the stereotype that both of the races mentioned are good at math, simply because of their race. It’s an outdated phrase that should stop being used; the color of your skin doesn’t determine if you are good at a subject in school. Everyone has the same potential for understanding a subject, and everyone is trying the best they can. Alternatively, accept that not everyone is naturally gifted in differential calculus, and work with students based on their level of ability, not by how fast you deem they should understand the subject.