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By Tommy Gagliano

Recently, Binghamton University students in certain classes were required to attend a mandatory lecture by the Multicultural Resource Center. The lecture was an hour long, and focused primarily on microaggressions. Along with the lecture, each student was given two handouts – one with examples of microaggressions, and another with tools to fight against microaggressions. Both handouts were formatted as charts. The first handout had 3 columns – the theme, examples of microaggressions within that theme, and the message that these microaggressions convey. The chart has 10 rows, or 10 themes. Let’s break them down one by one.

Theme 1 – “Alien in own land – When Asian Americans and Latino Americans are assumed to be foreign born.” The first example for this theme is “Where are you from?” which I personally find hilarious, since I’ve been asked that at least 50 times since coming to Binghamton University, and I’m white. I’m pretty sure everyone here has been asked that, and has asked other people that, since we’re in college. People in college come from all over the world (or in Binghamton’s case, all over New York State). Finding out where people are from is a great conversation starter, and a great way to relate to people that might be from somewhere close to you. Telling college students that it isn’t ok to ask people where they’re from is idiotic, regardless of race. According to the handout, microaggressions within this theme convey the message that “you are not American” or “you are a foreigner”. Damn, how did they know that when I asked my Asian roommate where he was from I was actually just trying to tell him he’s not a real American?

Theme 2 – “Ascription of intelligence – Assigning intelligence to a person of color on the basis of their race.” The three examples of microaggressions that fall under this category are “You are a credit to your race”, “You are so articulate”, and asking an Asian person to help with a math or science problem. I agree that the first one is probably not an appropriate thing to say, though I’ve also never heard anyone say it before reading this handout. The other two, however, are pretty ridiculous. How is saying “you are so articulate” offensive in any way? What is microaggressive about complimenting someone on their speaking ability? Are we not allowed to compliment anyone on anything anymore? I also don’t see anything wrong with asking an Asian person for help with math or science homework. If you’re asking them for help it’s probably because you know them fairly well, and know they are knowledgeable in those areas. My Calc professor is Asian, but I guess I’m not allowed to ask her for help, because that would be a microaggression.

Theme 3 – “Color blindness – Statements that indicate that a white person does not want to acknowledge race.” This one really irritates me, because it is so backwards and against everything Martin Luther King Jr and other civil rights activists have been fighting for. The examples for this theme are “When I look at you, I don’t see color”, “America is a melting pot”, and “There is only one race, the human race”. These are clearly anti-racist statements, but apparently not in 2017. In 2017 we need to find a way to be offended by everything, including statements promoting equality. Apparently the messages behind statements like this are “Denying a person of color’s racial / ethnic experiences”, “Assimilate / acculturate to the dominant culture”, and “Denying the individual as a racial / cultural being”. Because “America is a melting pot” and “Assimilate or die” are pretty much the same thing.

Theme 4 – “Criminality – assumption of criminal status – A person of color is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant on the basis of their race.” This one is slightly less stupid than the others. The microaggressions for this theme include a white person clutching their purse or wallet as a person of color approaches, and a store owner following a customer of color around the store. That makes sense, and I can see the problem with the assumptions being made in these hypothetical situations. That being said, these actions still don’t cause any actual harm to the “victim”, though I suppose that’s kind of the idea behind microaggressions.

Theme 5 – “Denial of individual racism – A statement made when whites deny their racial biases.” So essentially, all white people are racist, and denying it is in itself an act of racism. Gotcha. The microaggression examples for this theme are “I’m not racist, I have several black friends” and “As a woman, I know what you go through as a racial minority”. I don’t understand why “I have black friends” is viewed as such as bad defense against accusations of racism. If I was a racist and I didn’t like black people, I wouldn’t have black friends. Go ask one of the Charlottesville rioters how many black friends they have. I agree that the second statement is stupid, but for a completely different reason. I think it’s stupid because neither women nor racial minorities are oppressed in the United States, but I guess saying that probably counts as a microaggression too.

Theme 6 – “Myth of meritocracy – Statements which assert that race does not play a role in life successes.” This is by far the most idiotic theme on the handout, and it pisses me off even more than theme 3. There are only two examples provided for this theme – “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” and “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough”. Yes, you read that correctly. Believing that hiring decisions should be made based on qualifications, skill, and work ethic is now racist. Furthermore, the description of the theme and the examples contradict each other. The theme description asserts that race does play a role in life success, and suggests that it shouldn’t. However, in the first example, they claim that if you say that race shouldn’t play a role in life success, you’re committing a  microaggression. So the handout about fighting microaggressions actually contains a microaggression. Apparently saying that the most qualified person should get the job and that hard work leads to success conveys the messages that “people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race” and “people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder”. I fail to see how either of the examples provided correlate to these messages at all. I do actually agree with the first message, however. (Oh no, not only am I guilty of using microaggressions, I actually agree with the evil, racist message that is hidden within them! What a horrible person I am!) People of color are given unfair benefits because of their race. Affirmative action gives a huge advantage to people of color in hiring decisions as well as college acceptance, just based on their race. As for the second message, I’m not the one that is implying that people of color are “lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder”, the institutions that have adopted affirmative action policies are.

Theme 7 –  “Pathologizing cultural values / communication styles – The notion that the values and communication styles of the dominant / white culture are ideal.” The examples are asking a black person why they’re so loud, and asking an Asian or Latino person why they’re so quiet. I’ve never heard of the stereotypes that black people are loud and Asian and Latino people are quiet, nor have I experienced it in my life. I’m convinced you’re just making shit up at this point.

Theme 8 – “Second-class citizen – Occurs when a white person is given preferential treatment as a consumer over a person of color.” This one seems pretty reasonable, until you get to the actual examples of microaggressions in this category. “Person of color mistaken for a service worker, having a taxicab pass a person of color and pick up a white passenger.” The first one is a major stretch. The only time I’ve ever heard any stories of someone being mistaken for a service worker is when they’re wearing similar clothes to the employees, such as a red shirt and khakis at Target. I really don’t know what this has to do with race, since a lot of people, regardless of race, work pink-collar jobs at some point in their life. I’d say that the second one is a stretch as well, but I recently had an Uber driving say “Oh good, you’re white! I was afraid you were going to be black” when he picked me up, so I’m not so sure anymore.

Theme 9 – “Environmental microaggressions – Macro-level microaggressions, which are more apparent on systemic and environmental levels.” I’m not quite sure how you can have a “macro-level microaggression”. Seems like an oxymoron to me. I believe what they mean by this is that these occur on a larger scale, more than just an individual committing a microaggression once. The first example they provide is colleges with buildings that are all named after straight white males. This is dumb for a number of reasons. First off, buildings on college campus are usually named for famous alumni, or people that donated money to the college or university. Black people, if you want a building named after you, just give a lot of money to your alma mater. Secondly, does anyone even know or care who the buildings are actually named after? I know I don’t, because it really doesn’t matter. When I’m sitting in my dorm in Hughes, my experience isn’t going to be any different if the building was named after Charles Hughes (it was, I looked it up) or Langston Hughes. It’s still the same building. The second example was TV shows and movies where the characters are mostly white. Who cares that the US population is mostly white? Who cares that there are other shows that are mostly black, or Latino, or Asian? Who cares what the demographics of the setting being portrayed were/are actually like? Let’s just make every character in every movie and TV show black, we can’t support microaggressions after all.

Theme 10 – “How to offend without really trying.” Examples include “Indian giver”, “that’s so gay”, “I jewed him down”, and so on. It’s essentially just a list of phrases that no one should get offended by, but someone inevitably will.

Along with with the chart of different types of microaggressions was another handout, that focused on how to combat microaggressions. The entire handout is pretty much just a bunch of ways to try to accuse people of being racist and/or try to get them to admit that they’re racist. For example, when someone asks an Asian person for help with math homework, the handout suggests you respond with “I heard you say that Asians are good in math. What makes you believe that?” Similarly, if you hear someone say “I would have never guessed that you were a scientist” to a woman of color, the handout prompts you to respond with “I’m wondering what message this is sending her. Do you think you would have said this to a white male?” All of the other cases follow this pattern pretty similarly, with you overhearing a conversation and interrupting it to accuse someone of racism.

Of all of the stupid things the left complains about (and there are a lot of them), microaggressions are at the top of the list. By calling them “microaggressions” they are admitting that they are small and insignificant, yet they still declare them a major problem that greatly affects minorities. The birth of the term “microaggressions” is pretty indicative of the victimhood culture we live in, where being a victim is considered a good thing. “Microaggressions” are what happen when you run out of things to be a victim of.

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