‘Where ya from?’ now an act of microaggression

By WND Staff

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has released a new list of “microaggressions” posted on the employee forum website which are deemed offensive, including one’s choice of compliments, sports and vacations.

To help staff members avoid offense, the university recommends a “gender-neutral” dress code and to avoid using phrases like “husband/boyfriend.”

An editor’s note on the forum post specifies, “This blog post does not represent University policy. The piece was compiled from research and published scholarly works in response to Forum members’ interest in the topic of microaggressions.”

The post highlights the need to understand “implicit bias,” defined as “thoughts and feelings that occur independently of conscious intention, awareness, or control”; microaggressions occur when these internal thoughts manifest during interpersonal interactions.”

They further define microaggressions as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious slights and insults to the target person or group.”

These “indignities” include complimenting a speaker on her footwear, using the terms “husband/boyfriend” or “wife/girlfriend” instead of “partner/spouse,” asking where someone is from, referencing Christmas vacation or suggesting a round of golf.

The site includes a list of actions and how they are interpreted through the lens of microaggression.

For example, “Having an office dress code that applies to men and women differently” is incorrect because it “assumes that your staff fits into one of two gender categories; can also be a violation of anti-discrimination policies.”

Addressing “trans people with incorrect gender pronouns, calling them by former names, inquiring about their ‘real’ identity, asking them to explain their gender identity, and denying or failing to acknowledge their pronouns, name, or identity” is offensive because it assumes “as a trans person, you are inferior to and less authentic than cisgender (non-trans) people.”

“The Death of Free Speech: How Our Broken National Dialogue Has Killed the Truth and Divided America” examines how the news media has created arbitrary, biased and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena.

Additionally, stating “I love your shoes!” when said to a woman in leadership during a Q & A after a speech is incorrect because it states, “I notice how you look and dress more than I value your intellectual contributions. How you look is really important.”

The site points out how “unit celebrations, academic calendars and encouraged vacations are organized around major religious observances” in fact “further centers the Christian faith and minimizes non-Christian spiritual rituals and observances.”

“Do these examples sound familiar?” the post asks. “Have you delivered or received similar microaggressions? As we come to understand the impact of our words not only in the present, but as a result of years of marginalization, we must identify ways to be better allies and bystanders in the workplace and beyond.”

The site suggestions further actions to “become more inclusive with your language and social media posts,” including: “Review your communication (websites, blogs, social media, newsletters, personal conversations) to check for binary patterns: Do you tend to say ‘you guys’ in mixed company? Consider religious observances of minority religions while planning programming and important meetings. Encourage blind reviews of resumes during application reviews or award selections.”

'Thinkposium' logo

The university also has a recommended reading list for those further interested in sanitizing their words and actions lest they cause any offense. Readers are also encouraged to sign up for the 4th annual Diversity THINKposium to focus on Microaggressions being held in August.

The list was made by Sharbari Dey, assistant director for education and special initiatives at UNC’s Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and Kristia Prince, coordinator for leadership development in the school’s Housing and Residential Education department.

UNC Chapel Hill is also home to a “cultural competency workshop” which teaches white people are priveleged because they can buy Band-Aids “in ‘flesh’ color and have them more or less match” their skin tone.

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Microaggression has been a hot topic recently at a number of universities. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Inclusive Excellence Center launched a “Just Words” campaign last year to “raise awareness of microaggressions, their impact, [and] provide an insight into their meaning.”

Just Words

Last November Mizzou students told to call cops for ‘hurtful’ words in the wake the university president’s resignation over charges he was racially insensitive to minority students.

Additionally, in January The College Fix reported, “At Pennsylvania State University, no hurt feeling is too small, no slight too inconsequential, no unintentionally biased statement too unimportant. Administrators want to know it all.”

The article goes on to say, “The public university is in the midst of a massive campaign that encourages students not only to watch what they say, lest they offend someone, but also to report any and all biased statements to campus officials. ‘There is no place for hate, overt or subtle, at Penn State – such actions do not represent our mutually held values,’ Eric Barron, president of Penn State, stated in a recent message to the campus community.”

Penn State University microaggression poster

In the National Review, Katherine Timpf noted, “According to a new report released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, just ‘walking into or sitting in’ a classroom full of white people is a microaggression in itself.”

“While some might call this progress – after all, yelling, “Go Midshippeople” at a football game has a certain ring to it – I call it death by 1,000 microagressions,” concludes Michael Brown on The Stream. “And it will be a slow and painful death unless we regain our sanity in a hurry. America’s future cannot be much brighter than her campuses.”

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