Teachers, consider the possibility that you may unconsciously commit racial microaggressions in the classroom? Watch this short video, titled 'The Invisible Discriminator' - Stop. Think. Respect. This Public Service Announcement provides clear examples of microaggressions in everyday life. Racial microaggressions such as these may occur across all types of interracial communications; however, those that have the potential for the greatest harm are those perpetrated by majority culture individuals toward persons in disempowered racial groups.
According to Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology and Education in TC's Counseling Psychology program in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, racial microaggressions are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults that potentially have harmful psychological impact on the target person or group”
Here are two ways you can reduce racial microaggressions in the classroom
Racial Spotlighting and Racial Ignoring are two types of racial microaggressions. According to Dr. Dorinda Carter Andrews, Racial Spotlighting is a where students of color perceive that their White peers and teachers focus uninvited attention on them to give an expert opinion on racial issues simply because they identify or are identified as members of that racial group.
This negative or unwanted attention creates physical and psychological discomfort which limits students' engagement in the learning process. In contrast to Racial Spotlighting is Racial Ignoring. This occurs when students of color do not receive any acknowledgment or recognition by White teachers or students.
You can reduce racial microaggressions in the classroom through self-reflection. Self reflection is defined as meditation or serious thought about one's character, actions, and motives. Let's begin here.
Ask yourself, “Do I call on students of color only when the topic is related to their race or ethnicity, expect them to be experts on any experiences beyond their own or ask them to speak for their entire racial or ethnic group? "
If you do, this is racial spotlighting. For example, when slavery was discussed in history or English class, one student said, "It always makes me feel uncomfortable being the only African American student in the classroom.... like, it feels weird because people ask me questions about it, and like, how do you figure that I would know more about it? I'm learning the same thing you are, and it just makes me feel funny." This message conveys to the African American student that the teacher deems him unworthy of providing anything valuable to the class discussion unless it is about his race/ethnicity.
Ask yourself, "Do I ignore or neglect to acknowledge comments made by students of color?" "Do I ignore or neglect to acknowledge the identities and experiences of students of color?"
If you do, this is racial ignoring. This occurs when students of color do not receive any acknowledgment or recognition by White educators or students. For example, an African American student and a White student make the same comment, but the White student receives affirmation from the teacher after speaking. This message conveys to the African American student that the teacher deems him unworthy of providing anything valuable to the class discussion because of his race/ethnicity.
As long as racial microaggressions remain hidden, invisible, unspoken and excused as innocent slights with minimal harm, people will continue to insult, demean, alienate, and oppress marginalized groups. Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators to make every effort recognize and address racial microaggressions in our schools.
Stay informed for more ways to reduce racial microaggressions in the classroom in my next blog.
Written by Gwendolyn R.Y. Miller, M.S.Ed.
Even before that John Derbyshire debacle, it's no secret that talking to your children about race isn't easy.
"Broaching that topic often feels inappropriate, irrelevant, or just plain uncomfortable," says University of Toronto professor Sonia Kang. "Just ask any parent who has had the unnerving experience of witnessing their child publicly point out a stranger's race."
Read the whole story at www.theatlantic.com
Two basic intervention strategies for addressing microaggressions. The literature indicates two basic intervention strategies for addressing microaggressions. The first involves social supports from both peers and mentors (Watkins, Labarrie & Applo 2010). This approach includes forming positive and supportive relationships with other students of similar race, ethnicity, and culture, learning to reframe maladaptive microaggressive experiences into a collective group identity, and teaching self-regulation strategies. The second intervention is related to active coping (Tyler, 1991; Torres, 2010), which ultimately reduces stress and promotes a sense of agency and purpose.
1. Teachers make your confidence in students explicit
The prevailing stereotypes make it plausible for ability stigmatized students to worry that people in their schooling environment will doubt their abilities. This strategy is to discredit these assumptions through the authority of potential affirming adult relationships.
“Critical feedback coupled with optimism about their potential is a motivating factor to all students of color”
Arrington and Stevenson (2006) found that more than 75% of the students tolerated racial microaggressions from teachers and peers to better assimilate into their school climate. The emotional and/or psychological experiences of students of color regarding racial microaggressions can seriously undermine their performance at school. Unfortunately, teachers are not educated sufficiently to recognize the existence of racial microaggressions or understand its implication. It begins with self...through reflection and awareness.
Teaching in racially diverse classrooms often leaves educators feeling uncertain about how to proceed and how to behave.
Here are some suggestions.
Dr. Derald W. Sue, a Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College Columbia University, proposed difficult dialogues on race and racism for students of color are often triggered by racial microaggressions. The term “racial microaggressions” is defined as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group”. Sue conducted a qualitative study involving students of color from Teacher’s College who had experienced difficult dialogues on race in the classroom, in which the students were observed having discussions in focus groups.