Ortiz: Be careful CSU, your microaggressions are showing

Kenia Ortiz

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

Last year, CSU had problems when it came to its interactions with students of color. While CSU has showed support to marginalized groups through events like CSU Unite, we should not have to wait until there is a problem to speak about it.

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Going into the 2018-2019 school year, we as a community should hold ourselves and others responsible when it comes to respecting and acknowledging others’ identities, as well as apologizing and correcting ourselves when it is not done.

A small but meaningful change students can do is to simply become more aware of what we say. 

Microaggressions are everyday verbal/nonverbal snubs with either intentional or unintentional hostility and negative messages to a marginalized group. Microaggressions generally stem from biases or prejudices one holds about another group of people. While some microaggressions are unintentional, there are microaggressions meant to insult or belittle an individual.

Microaggressions put individuals under a spotlight and makes a generalization, which may not be accurate or factual. 

Here is an example, recently I was eating dinner with coworkers, all CSU employees, and we were discussing the spiciness of our dish. I was preparing to share my opinion on the dish when one of my coworkers turned to me and said “I’m sure this isn’t spicy to you. You would know because…” they gestured at my face.

I was one of the two Mexican-American individuals on our staff and therefore, my coworker assumed that because I am Mexican, I am accustomed to spicy dishes. This was a microaggression.

While this example is not particularly damaging, tone-deaf at best, it represents a larger problem. Our words, can be offensive and impactful. The way we stereotype and perceive cultures can be impactful. On predominately white institutions like CSU, microaggressions increase feelings of alienation in people of color.

I was not insulted that she identified me as Mexican, I was insulted that the individual had made an assumption about who I am and what my preferences are due to my ethnicity. In reality, there is a vast majority of Mexicans/Mexican-Americans that do not enjoy spicy food/dishes.

Comments like these can lead to larger, more detrimental generalizations.

This summer there have been countless instances of White individuals calling the police on people of color simply because they perceived that the person/group to be suspicious. This is racial profiling

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One instance was when a white woman called the cops on a Yale student who fell asleep in a common room because she “did not belong there”; the student was a Black woman.

Another example of a microaggression I often hear on this campus is when a person of color is told “Wow! You sound so articulate.”

People of color are perceived to be less intelligent and/or articulate in comparison to white individuals. This microaggression points out cultural differences. Constantly having these differences highlighted leads to discomfort and anxiety. The surprise of hearing a person of color being “well-spoken” roots from the assumption that english is not a person of color’s first language, or the deep rooted stereotype that people of color or non-english speakers are not educated.

 

Other common examples you may hear that are microaggressions would be:

  •  “You are a good driver for an Asian”
  •  “You’re being moody, is it that time of the month again?”
  •  “I am not racist, I have several Black friends”
  • “You don’t act like a normal Black person”
  • “I like you, you’re not like other Black girls”
  • “So like, what are you?”
  •  “That’s so gay” 

For those of us that are thinking “I’m tired of reading about this,” then imagine how tired marginalized students of color at CSU are. They don’t have to read about it; they experience it daily. With so many videos of people of color having the police called on them continued to trend all summer, even one instance on our very own campus, it remains important to remind our predominately white community what microaggressions are.

Understand that there are people who are unaware of what microaggressions are, and when making a joke or trying to give a compliment, they do not intend to offend someone. It is best to steer clear of making assumptions and jokes when it comes to an individual’s speech/language, race, intelligence, culture, religion, sexual orientation and gender.

Moments when we may have insulted someone should be taken as a learning experience and create a chance to apologize. We must make it our responsibility to think about we say and how it may  impact those different than us. Then you can take the time to reflect on your own prejudices and privileges in order to never make the same mistake again.

Kenia Ortiz can be reached at letters@collegian.com