Article - No, You’re Not Imagining It: 3 Ways Racial Microaggressions Sneak into Our Lives

This is a good article however again and as per usual there is no mention of Native American/First Nations people.  A heads up on this because the term is called "statistical genocide."  We as Native American/First Nations people are left out of statistics, research projects, studies, articles, reports and on and on.  Raising awareness on this will continue indefinitely as long as the dominant/majority/mainstream culture continues to treat us the invisible minority.  Nonetheless this is a good article on racial microagressions.  From my point of view we deal with colonial racial microaggressions.  Racism can occur towards us as a people (insults, stereotypes, discrimination) or racism towards our lands and waters (environmental racism). 

- - - - -

No, You’re Not Imagining It: 3 Ways Racial Microaggressions Sneak into Our Lives

Have you ever experienced someone insulting you in a way that felt a little bit racist, but you couldn’t quite figure out why?

Were you worried about “reading too much into it,” “being too sensitive,” or taking offense when none was intended?

When this happened, did you let the other person know you were hurt, only for them to become distressed or defensive? Have you been reluctant to say something when you felt this way because your opinions have been silenced or ignored in the past?

Like many other people of color (POC) living the US, I’ve felt all of these things. For some of us, feeling this way is the norm and, without realizing, we put up a wall to protect ourselves from the damage that comes with it.

These uneasy, uncertain feelings can be the result of what Chester M. Pierce, a psychiatrist and professor, coined racial microaggressions – originally defined as the racist insults directed at Black people from non-Black Americans.

Dr. Derald Wing Sue, who also writes about racial microaggressions, explains them as the “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

Microaggressions are “micro” because they often happen in small, private situations, yet their effects often impact us in massive and dangerous ways.

Over time, being on the receiving end of these everyday (yet often unrecognizable) attacks can lead to depression, social isolation, and lowered confidence. Because we’ve been conditioned to question ourselves and not the perpetrators or the situations, we begin to wonder if our own feelings and experiences are legitimate.

Sometimes, without understanding what we’re doing, we even internalize those aggressions and use them to police both our loved ones and ourselves.

As a kid, I often corrected my mother’s pronunciation of English words. Though she did have a Chinese accent, she didn’t need me to tell her how to speak English – she’d taught English as a second language for more than a decade.

I didn’t realize that by doing that, I was communicating that her foreign accent not only made her English different, it made it wrong. And like so many others, I had no idea I was regurgitating racist ideology (practicing internalized racism).

While small acts of internalized racism like mine go unnoticed all the time, there are too many occasions where the victim is just too shocked to say anything in the moment.

Whatever the reason, it amounts to letting racism off the hook. When we allow these small incidences to keep happening, we are allowing racism, in general, to remain a part of our culture.

As Dr. Sue goes on to state, the perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware of how they may be offending or hurting others.

It’s important for us to remember that just because a perpetrator of racism is clueless (or in denial) about the impact of their words doesn’t mean that their actions were any less violent or that the impact of that violence is changed.



When it comes down to it, intention is irrelevant.

If we only focus on intention, we continue to center and prioritize the perpetrator. And let’s face it: The perpetrator is always a more privileged person who is used to getting their opinions and feelings validated.

We are trained to believe people with social power.

But if ever we hope to truly put an end to racism (or any other injustice for that matter), we, as people who encounter so much marginalization, must also validate our own feelings and opinions. We re-center our attention to our needs and experiences by focusing on impact, not intent.

By not reacting to microaggressions, we can lose our sense of being true to ourselves. We risk bottling up the toxic feelings brought on by unending racism. But if we react angrily, we are often faced with defensiveness and criticism from our perpetrators.

But, alas, there is a middle ground, and that is to engage the perpetrator in a thoughtful manner. Vlogger Jay Smooth has a great video about it here. 

The Three Types of Microaggressions

Dr. Sue and others at Teachers College of Columbia University have identified three basic forms of microaggressions: 

1. Microassaults

Microassaults, the most conscious and intentional form of microaggressions,  best resemble what we are accustomed to thinking of as “old-fashioned” racism.

Some common examples are using racial epithets (or abusive, derogatory language or names), displaying confederate flags or swastikas, mocking another language, telling racist jokes, and serving White customers first.

What they all have in common is their explicitness. Whether verbal or nonverbal, microassaults are fairly direct forms of prejudice and discrimination.

The following two forms of microaggressions are less direct and intentional on the part of the perpetrator. 

2. Microinsults 

Microinsults communicate rudeness and insensitivity towards someone based on their racial identity or heritage. These acts take away a person’s dignity or sense of self-worth, but they do so indirectly.

Some microinsults can seem like compliments to the person saying them.

Growing up, I was repeatedly told by White boys that I was “cute for an Asian.” This always made me feel incredibly shameful even though I had done nothing wrong. It led me to believe that being Asian meant being undesirable. It also taught me that White boys would never see me as an individual but as a race.

Other examples of microinsults are being told that “You are a credit to your race” or “You are so articulate.”

These statements assume that intelligence or role model behavior is tied with Whiteness because they reveal surprise at the POC’s excellence in what they do.

And even more examples (because racism is so frustratingly relentless) are a White person crossing to the other side of the street at the approach of a Black or Latino man, or a storeowner carefully watching or following a customer of color.

This conveys the message that these people deserve to be feared and are likely to steal or hurt, but this fear is based on racist stereotypes hyped by the White media.

While some data makes it looks like Blacks and Latinas are more likely to steal or hurt others, it is based on a racist system (the prison industrial complex) that targets people from those communities

3. Microinvalidations

Microinvalidations exclude or negate the experiences, feelings, and experiential reality of a POC.

A common microinvalidation is the notion of “color blindness” or the assertion that we now live in “post-racial” times. It is also invalidating to downplay occurrences of racism, or to tell a POC, “Stop being so sensitive” or “Not everything’s about race!”

These phrases, perhaps meant to smooth over the perpetrators discomfort of the situation, completely dismiss the racialized experiences of POC.

What lies at the heart of most microinvalidations is the norm of Whiteness and White experiences.

Dismissing the racialized experiences of POC is oppressive and continues to give credence only to the White experience. Along with that, colorblind thinking dismisses the reality of white privilege and white supremacy, and allows them to keep doing what they do.

An example of this is asking a person of color, “Where are you from?” or “How do you say ____ in your language?”

This question is often directed at Asian and Latin Americans – whether immigrants skilled in other languages or not – out of simple curiosity. But the message is that even if they consider America their home, they will never truly belong.

Another example is “I’m not racist – I have a ____ friend!”

Racism is culturally pervasive, which means that it’s part of almost everyone in this society. Whether or not we believe ourselves to be racist, our words and actions often conform to what our racist culture has taught us – and having a Black friend does not change that fact.

Also: “If you work hard enough, you will succeed.”

This is called the “myth of meritocracy” – the idea that through determination and hard work, alone, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (for a classic example, read the story of Horatio Alger).
This is what leads us to believe the racist, classist stereotype that we, POC (and people in general) who don’t succeed, are lazy, stupid, or incompetent – that they deserve what they have or don’t have.

But the experience for many, though not all, of us is more complicated.

Factors such as institutional racism, education level of family members, and access to fewer resources that help us succeed means that many of our paths to personal success is challenging in more ways than our White counterparts.

The truth is, privilege — due to race or class — is what helps you succeed in an unjust society. (POC benefit from class privilege, too.)

This is why Affirmative Action exists, though it cannot and will not ever make the playing field entirely even.

There is a last kind of microaggression that doesn’t take place between individuals. Instead, environmental microaggressions are felt in our everyday surroundings or through our social “climate.”

For example, a Latina woman waiting for a job interview sees pictures of the other employees, all of them white men. Even if the company is not racist, its office is telling her that she does not belong there and is less likely to be hired than a white man.

The way that abortion rights and Planned Parenthood funding is debated can be seen as a sexist environmental microaggression because it invalidates the healthcare needs and decision-making abilities of women, especially those with lower incomes.

***
As POC, we are often silenced or stunned by microaggressions. But just as there are positive ways to deal with stress, there are empowering ways to address microaggressions.

How I deal with microaggressions depends on the situation. There is no one way to cope.

And just as the answer for me differs from case to case, what I find helpful may not apply to you. But the first step is always the same, and that is to acknowledge your sense of discomfort, hurt, or anger.
There is a lot we can do for ourselves to minimize the impact of such events. Journaling, meditation, or movement (zumba or yoga, anyone?) are all forms of self-love that can restore our well-being and give our emotions a safe outlet.

Reaching out to friends and other trusted confidantes can be a great way to validate our feelings. Sometimes when something happens that makes our skin crawl with anger or disappointment, all we need is someone to feel it with us.

While we don’t have to engage the aggressor, opening a dialogue with them is one way to come to terms with what happened.

Before starting that conversation, ask yourself what you want to gain from the conversation. How you approach them will differ depending on whether you’re trying to change their behavior or solely desiring to verbalize your feelings.

I am often reluctant to engage with the perpetrator myself, but it can be especially important to do so if the person who microaggressed you is someone you encounter frequently, much less someone you care about.

The last (and maybe most important) thing is to eventually let it go. By this, I don’t mean forgive or forget. I mean taking care not to give them, or the microaggressor themselves, more power over you in the process.

This might happen naturally once you’ve processed the event, but sometimes we need a little reminding that microaggressions should be addressed, but they are not worth dwelling upon and reliving.

Living in constant anticipation of mistreatment is not only draining and stressful, it can even prevent us from experiencing joy or letting wonderful people into our lives. This is the biggest challenge: to strengthen ourselves without becoming hardened against vulnerability.

True strength resides in the reed that bends with the wind but does not fall down. It is rooted. It turns towards the sun. However you choose to handle it when someone micoraggresses you, remember that you are not alone. Your opinion counts. Your feelings matter. And you deserve sunshine.

Anni Liu is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a writer, musician, and Chinese DREAMer. Anni is currently working with emotionally and behaviorally challenged kids at an alternative school. She lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with her partner and his son and hopes to make the acquaintance of a moose. Read her articles here.

Original article posted on Everyday Feminism.

Privilege in Activism - Ego is Not a Clan

"The denial of Native womanhood is the reduction of whole people to a sub-human level.  Animals beget animals.  The dictates of patriarchy demand thatbeneath the Native male comes the Native female.  The dictates of racism are that Native man are beneath white women and Nativefemales are not fit to be referred to as women." ~ Lee Maracle, from I Am Woman (1996: p. 17-18)

I've pretty much left much of my former activism behind but I am not saying I am leaving activism behind completely.  I am redefining activism by broadening the definition from sign carrying and so called "front lines," activism.  What I was given and dealt with in the past few years included - lateral violence, bullying, male privilege, counter organizing, favoritism, huge egos, sexism, ageism (from older activists) and more.  It is important to point these things out because we can't create a better world by oppressing others in work that is supposed to be "liberating."  My vision of a matriarchal and non-hierarchical model has been rarely honored.  I am finding that it is honored in small and appreciative spaces from elders, youth or close friends.  I constantly see people uplift others who have been openly abusive to others and in front of people in their community.  We need to stop doing this.  We need to stop uplifting people who bully, ridicule and hurt others.  While toting your pride, toting about how much you do "out there" while oppression reigns on others inside the community.  These activist's are full of pride, full of ego.  And folks, ego is not a clan!

I've been an activist in many ways, shapes and forms since I was 12 years old.  Whether I fought against gentrification in my hometown, worked on various environmental issues, mentored a youth and more.  I don't need to boast about it nor post about it constantly like others on facebook.  Look at me, look at what I am doing.  Activism is not just carting a sign and posting about it on facebook, while your life is completely different behind the screen.  Activism is so much more.  There are many activists who don't even identify as activists.  Then tend and care for the land.  They tend and care for an elder.  They support a youth, in being a positive role model.  They help someone who is in recovery from an addiction heal.  They offer prayers to the land daily.  They make a meal for a friend.  They donate their time quietly to a soup kitchen.  They try to change the dynamics of the family system they were raised in.

Activism is so much more that the limited definitions it has been given.  Survival is resistance.  When someone who is labeled "at-risk" survives and thrives this is a form of activism and should be applauded but rarely is.  Personal healing is also resistance.  Healing intergenerational trauma is resistance.  Additionally, personal healing requires that one looks inside themselves instead of focusing on the problems "out there."  This is the "activism" that gets little to no recognition because of the limited and narrow definition of activism.  As the old saying goes the personal is political.  But I'm saying that one must make a commitment to inner work and outer work in a circle but ah-ha... this is a life long process.  

"Our work towards liberation challenges us to think and rethink our approaches to change.  Revolution requires that we continuously ask ourselves what it would take to stay here, to work toward the liberation of the person across the room, across town, across the globe.  Such revolution does start at home, where our beliefs are formed by the daily practices of our lives.  At times, this work feels overwhelming: how can we transform a violent world, call mighty governments to account, and repair generations of injustice when we are still unable to stop activists committed to liberation movements from abusing their partners, sexually harassing their comrades, or otherwise harming people in our communities?  Accountability, understood as a human skill, offers each of us a path forward when we miss the mark." - The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities (2011: p. 278)

Then there is hierarchy in activism.  This hierarchy can include males who never check their male privilege or boasting that you have a degree from an Ivy League school.  In this hierarchy you may see someone hog the microphone and never allow anyone else up on the stage because of unchecked privilege.  This is not community work nor it is activism at all.  It is self promotion, plain and simple.  True community work is letting everyone speak in their various identities, life experiences and fully hearing them out.  Being a community worker is having a deep understanding of the multiple ways people have been oppressed as well as the privileges they might have.  A community worker sinks their feet down in the soil and is right there.  A community worker doesn't stand on a pedestal and promote, promote, promote!

Let me reiterate that ego is not a clan.  I am disheartened by being sidestepped, trampled and pushed aside.  I am disheartened that I am one of few people who holds onto a non-hierarchical and matriarchal vision of how things could be in the world.  Particularly regarding decolonization in the Native community and how our individual lives, families and communities could look like if we fully commit to decolonization. 

My journey has led me to humbling myself in the eyes of the Creator - Gitchi Manitou.  I will continue on my path as a word warrior through poetry and writing!
 

"I have my books,
And my poetry to protect me,
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, 

Safe within my womb..."

 ~ Simon & Garfunkle, I Am a Rock

 

Resources

This link explains historical trauma, historical unresolved grief, disenfranchised grief, internalized oppression, survivor syndrome and more.

A Letter to Male Activists

Aboriginal Communities Are Breaking Down

Bullying and Lateral Violence

Lateral Violence in First Nations Communities

Lateral Violence on the rez

Wawatay News - Ending the cycle of bullying

Poem: We Talk About Reparations

How you deal with an ugly thing in the Native community,
We always talk about reparations in the Native community,
Bringing back what was rightfully ours,
But we don't talk about the ways in which the community,
Ignores,
Sidesteps,
Tramples,
Each other,
It's what the oppressor wants,

How you deal with an ugly thing in the Native community,

1. Bury it deep down in the Earth and expect growth,
2. Ignore lateral violence/bullying,
3. Pray to an absent Father -"God,"
4. Run away from your problems,
5. Deny male privilege,
6. Deny your heart/feelings,
7. Distort/lie/retort,

Not at all,
I'm not hearin' ya,
The solution is,
Restoring something lost or stolen to its proper owner,

No I said,
Turn around,
Face me,
I am not afraid,
I am not fooled,

You say I don't know you,
Or that you can't change this,
But I know you,

I lay the sema in the territory,
Shining the light inside the walls to see what needs to be removed.

Article: Good ancestors (Briarpatch Magazine)

                Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation activist Eriel Deranger at the Tarsands Healing Walk. Photo:   
                SAGE Magazine.

Earlier this winter, Canada’s best known and most trusted environmentalist, David Suzuki, declared modern environ­­mentalism a failure. The span of Suzuki’s lifework – from biologist to public intellectual and environmentalist – testifies to an epic struggle. Namely, that the emergence of modern environmentalism and expanding environmental consciousness has coincided with the relentless expansion of petro-capitalism and ecological catastrophe. According to a recent study by the Climate Accountability Institute, half of all greenhouse gas emissions since the 1750s were produced in just the last 25 years.

Making sense of this fact pushes us beyond the ken of conventional green politics. Following Suzuki’s call for a “shift in paradigm,” we must understand capitalism not as a range of options (choosing between this form of capitalism or some better one) but as a system of human and ecological relations with unyielding parameters: commodification, exploitation, dispossession, accumulation, profit, control. It’s a system dependent on endless growth, heaving from one crisis to the next.

The dream of a well-regulated market has become a nightmare. As the fifth report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear in October, the human role in global climate change is incontestable – and the consequences dire. And yet this appears of little consequence to politicians.

Speaking before the Economic Club of Canada in early December, federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair referred to the energy sector as “the motor of the Canadian economy.” Given such a vehicle, an economic outlook that honours the atmosphere for future generations is unthinkable. Since ecological sanity is incompatible with the Canadian motor, we shouldn’t be surprised that even Stephen Harper’s parliamentary opposition backs the construction of a pipeline to carry tarsands bitumen across Indigenous lands to the East Coast.

Meanwhile, in a commentary published in Canadian Living a few months ago, Margaret Atwood suggested, “It’s no longer a question of green versus commerce: We really are all in it together when it comes to air, water, earth, and fire. We’re in the soup. It’s a shared soup and we’ll have to work together to get out of it.”

But is our world a shared soup? Are the 90 companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, that are responsible for two-thirds of historic greenhouse gas emissions “in it together” with members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, who are currently waging a legal battle against Shell’s poisonous tarsands operations?

If addressing our ecological predicament means staring down the twinned realities of capitalist production and ongoing col­onialism, it’s little wonder many people are unmotivated to act. Trying to replace the most powerful economic system in world history has an onerous sound to it, especially at a time when it’s not enough to get your kids off to school in the morning – you also have to defend the school from closure, juggle three jobs, and monitor your Facebook feed.

In this context, a defiant recognition of the fact we are living in history is essential. Just as collective struggles from the Civil Rights movement to the South African anti-apartheid campaign reveal how people have transformed the world in hitherto unimaginable ways, we are compelled today, in the midst of a coast-to-coast Indigenous resurgence, to reclaim our capacity to alter history.

It’s no accident that the foreclosure of possibility, the sense that there is no alternative, is driven into us at every turn. Fatalism is a mechanism of social control. In exploring past struggles, we can kick through the present darkness to glimpse the explosive potential of our aspirations.

Through historical reckoning, we can move beyond our frustrated and atomized sense of urgency to the forms of relationship-building and careful, strategic organizing that might allow us to become the ancestors future generations demand that we be.

Andrew Loewen is an editor at Briarpatch Magazine.

Article - Good ancestors

Poem: Ode to the Olde Town

Oppressed and repressed,
Rez and distressed,
Passed through and ignored,
One way ticket outta the sore,
Colored and deplored,
Poor,
Torn,
Sent to war,
Native to relative,
Bus ride 55 East,
Confused,
Refused service,
Denied visitation rights,
Fight,
Flight,
Blight,
Abandoned,
To the core,
Sworn to the floor,
With words,
To churn,
Deliver and rekindle,
Dialing,
Connecting the call,
Rerouting,
Transmission,
Precision,
Ode to the olde town.