Microaggressions common on campus

When thinking of racial harassment on campus, most people may not think of microaggressions. In fact, many people might not know just what microaggressions are. Still, people may be guilty of using them.

CJ Harkness, the chief diversity officer at Baldwin Wallace, said that microaggressions are so frequent, even more so than typical racial harassment.

“The number one issue that I hear from students are microaggressions,” said Harkness. “All of us should be more aware in thinking about how it is that the interactions we have with each other impact each other.”

A microaggression is defined as an indirect, subtle, or unintentional act of discrimination or harassment against members of a minority group. Many times, a person might not even know that what they’ve said or done constitutes a microaggression.

Trent Mosley, one of the co-presidents of BW’s Student Diversity Council, agreed with Harkness that microaggressions are one of the main types of harassment on campus.

“I’ve certainly been a subject of microaggressions in my time here,” said Mosley.

While microaggressions may be hard to understand and avoid at first, it’s essential to educate yourself to avoid them, said Idalis Dixon, co-president of the Student Diversity Council. She said the best way to understand and avoid microaggressions is to educate yourself.

“Do some research, know some history, ask informed questions,” said Dixon. “I don’t think a person not of color should make it a person of color’s job to keep them informed and tell them what they should and shouldn’t do when they’re around somebody that is of color…Be a little more conscious of what you’re saying.”

“When a microaggression is said or heard, don’t be afraid to correct it or speak out on it,” said Mosley. “At the same time, the person speaking the microaggression, I guess it requires a bit of thinking, you know, realizing what you’re saying. There are some microaggressions that are easier to identify than others. It’s a bit of a two-way street. It’s not all on the person being microaggressed to correct the behavior. There has to be an initiative on the other side to learn more about communication.”

Mosley also found that microaggressions had the most impact in the classroom.

“You know, we’re all here to get an education,” Mosley said. “It’s important to see more diverse students, but if the university or the classroom can’t support having these students here, it’s very damaging. I often think of it as like you don’t have a toaster and you want toast. You can bring in more toast, but that doesn’t fix the problem of you not having the toaster to begin with.”

Mosley states that just because a classroom may have diversity in it, that classroom may not support the ideas or opinions of diverse students.

“A lot of other students won’t value the kinds of ideas you have to offer,” said Mosley.

Harkness agreed with the idea that a diverse campus doesn’t always lead to a diverse classroom.

“Representation is something we can continue to work on in making sure that we give our best effort and making sure that we have the diversity that is in some corners of campus, in all corners of campus,” said Harkness.

Dixon had many similar opinions about being a minority in a classroom. It can be difficult, she said, but she knows it’s important to voice your opinions.

“Say what needs to be said,” said Dixon. “Correct others when they say things that can really harm others around them.”

Harkness, Dixon, and Mosley all agree that the best way to avoid microaggressions and harassment on campus is to educate yourself. Still, it can be difficult to get started. Many students may not know where to start. Dixon thinks it’s best to start right on campus.

“Be on the lookout for advertisements or posters on campus,” said Dixon. “[Diversity events] are for anybody to go to. Don’t just think because it says black or Hispanic or Muslim that you can’t go. You can, and we want you to attend. We want you to learn. Just by being there, you bring in a new point of view.”

Harkness said, “I am always all ears and open to having discussions on how we can do things that meet the needs of students.”

He encourages students to meet with him at the Center for Inclusion in Bonds.