Monday, January 3, 2011

The Continuation of Prejudice in Today's Society: Guest Post by Peer Leader Intern Hannah Davis

Why does our society continue to allow prejudice? Sure it isn’t always as blatant as it use to be, but there are many people suffering from microaggresions. What does this mean you may ask? Microaggressions are very small incidents that may at first appear innocent but on deeper inspection are actually forms of aversive racism or sexism or classism or any other ism there is. It appears that these slights are unconscious and is one way that people who have unknown biases project their true feelings.

An example of a microaggression could be a person who is Asian being denied a job they are qualified for to another candidate who is white. Their resumes are exactly the same, both are charming, and both are hard working but the white manager picks the white person. If asked, most likely that manager wouldn’t admit he or she picked the person according to race, even if it was an undertone to the decision.

According to Derald Wing Sue in his article entitled “Microaggressions in Everyday Life”, there are three categories of microaggressions:

1) Microassults: conscious actions that are prejudiced against a person for their race, sex, age, ect.

2) Microinsults: some type of communication that is insensitive and unconsciously done

3) Microinvalidations: communication that secretly puts another down by invalidating them due to their religion, sexual orientation, disability, ect.

All of these forms of microaggressions are powerful ways to hurt others, but the last two are unconscious and therefore harder to stop. Many people deny that they have stereotypes of certain people because society promotes diversity and acceptance. And yet their denial only hurts those who are the victims of their words and actions even more. Only once people begin to understand that they are unwittingly harming others can they begin to change their attitude and stop their unconscious prejudiced actions.

In another article Sue mentioned “microaggressions reflect the active manifestation of oppressive worldviews that create, foster, and enforce marginalization. Because most of us consciously experience ourselves as good, moral, and decent human beings, the realization that we hold a biased worldview is very disturbing; thus we prefer to deny, diminish or avoid looking at ourselves honestly. Yet, research suggests that none of us are immune from inheriting the racial, gender, and sexual orientation biases of our society. We have been socialized into racist, sexist and heterosexist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Much of this is outside the level of conscious awareness, thus we engage in actions that unintentionally oppress and discriminate against others.”

So with this in mind, is it really all that crazy to think we have each engaged in any of the three types of microaggressions?

I’d also wager that if you ask your friends and family someone would probably be able to give you an example of how microaggressions have been used against them.

As we try to fight the everyday microaggresion in our society we should also continue to battle the obvious forms of aggression. The USA Network television channel has come up with a campaign called Characters Unite that is asking people to take a “stand against intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and hate, and to promote greater understand and acceptance”. You can pledge at their website and learn more about their fight against all forms of hatred.

Perhaps by removing the obvious discriminations we will be able to truly begin to stop microaggressions. As hard as it might be to imagine a world where everyone is seen as equal, isn’t it a nice picture? Don’t we want to fight to see a better tomorrow for future generations? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to work on our own prejudices; acknowledge them, think about them, and eliminate them.

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