Microinterventions Transcript

Dr. Lamar Muro:
Hi, my name is Dr. Lamar Muro And I'd like to talk to you for just a few minutes today about microinterventions. What to do when you hear microaggressions on campus. I'm going to be presenting today along with Dr. Bonnie King and we are both in the Counseling and Development Program. We are in the Department of Human Development Family Studies and Counseling here at TWU. You may be familiar with the term microaggressions, or maybe you're not familiar with the term.

Microaggressions are these everyday slights or insults, and they can be verbal or nonverbal. They can include comments, words, or actions. Microaggressions are targeted at minority groups or marginalized groups. People that, for a number of reasons have been protected, for example, in the Civil Rights Act or in your own profession, in our profession, these are all groups that are protected from discrimination because they have been historically targeted or not have the same power and privilege and protection as other groups.

The categories might be based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, age, ability, religion, immigrant status, or socioeconomic status, or at the intersection of any of those. Microaggressions tend to be like bullying. They are comments that are repetitive or behaviors that are repetitive, that people in these subgroups are pretty accustomed to hearing and being on the receiving end of. Also, just like bullying, they can induce trauma and experiences of incredible stress and anxiety. We know that they both reflect and fuel really dangerous negative stereotypes.

We also know, just to continue on the last slide, that they can result in a lot of mental health issues and physical health issues. They can have negative adverse effects that are as severe as suicidal ideation. To break these down into three different, simple categories, Sue gives us some subcategories for microaggressions as micro assaults, micro insults, and micro invalidations.

Microassaults is very much like it sounds. It's about really overt and probably intentional comments or slurs, jokes, things that are negatively loaded somehow. It could also include actions or behaviors like if a person of color is walking down the street and, let's say, somebody crosses the street to avoid them, or they might clutch their wallet or bag or purse, or they might monitor this person suspiciously in a store. That would convey a message of an assumption of criminality.

Micro insults tend to be less conscious and less intentional. Sometimes people are actually thinking that they are giving somebody a compliment, but is an underlying message there that can really be hurtful and harmful. For example, you don't look like or act like other Asian-Americans, or other black people, or other Mexican-Americans. You're so articulate. Those can convey a message of some sort of cultural pathology or inferiority.

Where are you from? If you ask a person just that can, it can convey an assumption of, oh, you're not from here, you're not an American, you're an alien in your own land. There are a lot of examples of those. Micro-invalidations are really just about the denial of these realities and these experiences. When people say, "I don't see color, I just see people." That's an example of denial of racial experience and maybe telling somebody, "This is just in your head. You're being too sensitive. You're overreacting." That's a denial of the everyday isms, like racism, or sexism, or ableism, or age-ism and those everyday discriminations and injustices.

There's an article you might check out. I'm just going to pull it up now so you can know what to look up and it's about coronavirus related discrimination. I wanted to give you a real recent example. This is a report that was published this year and it's extends from March 19th to April 15th. Really just within a month, about almost 1500 reports on a lot of different types of microaggressions and actually some real overt racist acts related to the coronavirus. Everything from refusal of service to slurs, to people being coughed on and spat on who were assumed to be Chinese or Chinese-American, verbal harassment, online harassment, even physical assault.

This was carried out, if you're interested in checking it out, by the San Francisco State University Asian-American Studies Program. We know that this stuff is real and there's some different recommendations about what to do. Some of those recommendations address what to do if you are either the victim or on the receiving end of a microaggression. Some of the recommendations are targeted for bystanders or allies. I think that on the receiving end, we can look at some of Dr. Kevin [Adalls' 00:05:11] work, where he has some good suggestions about maybe first doing a reality check. Did this really happen? Did I really just hear what I thought I heard or see what I thought I saw? It's important to sometimes maybe not jump to conclusions, even though you may have experienced this before. You might do a double-take. You might maybe look at people around you and see how they're reacting. You might even check in with the person directly and try to clarify, "What did you mean by that?"

You should first discern if it's safe for you to respond directly to a situation. Sometimes physical safety is an issue and it might not be. Sometimes even just your psychological safety. Maybe you do know if the person you're dealing with might have a tendency to be defensive or even to become hostile. In which case, it might not be wise to respond directly. Often in those situations, it can be important maybe to take something to HR, or if you're on a university campus, you might take it to a faculty advisor and you should also always seek support for yourself. Through talking to a supportive person or supportive community, which could include a counselor at the university.

There are different ways that we can respond if we want to take a more proactive stance, a more assertive stance. We can decide that maybe just to speak a boundary that something isn't okay, or we could walk away. That would also be a way of setting a boundary, or we could decide that we might want to use that opportunity to reeducate this person. In that case, we always want to use respectful language because what we don't want to do is to return dehumanization with more dehumanization. I think it's important that we remember that oppression is dehumanizing. We don't want to emulate that, but we can use respectful language. We can let people know that their words or their actions were hurtful and harmful, and tell them how they were hurtful and harmful to us. We can also give them help on some different ways that they can respond.

Now, the reason why I think that Dr. Sue focuses more on this these kinds of suggestions for allies is because it isn't always fair and reasonable to expect for people who are the targets, let's say, of so-called bullying to then have the added burden of having to change or reform others. For those of us who are allies, we are in a position of more power and privilege. If we witness something like a microaggression, we can respond in a way that can be using our power and privilege in a positive and constructive way. Sue's suggestions are that we definitely always address the microaggression. Again, I think that we still do need to use discernment, but the point of trying to address a microaggression in some way is to make the invisible visible. That's to basically call a spade a spade and let's say something hurtful here and inappropriate has happened.

Then next step involves educating, which is helping the victim feel heard. That this is something that is inappropriate. This is something that can not be tolerated and that there is a real harmful impact. Then the next step involves disarming, which has to do with how are we going to change things? How are we going to help to prevent microaggressions from happening again? And for protecting those who are on the receiving end. Making the invisible visible is really just about what we know. That as we ignore, avoid, or we become silent, that helps these patterns to perpetuate these patterns and that we know that that's not effective.

Educating is really about focusing on impact versus intent. When we focus on intent, we also don't get very far because oftentimes people will say, "well, I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to offend." then we let go of the conversation there and so we don't really get to the point of helping to reeducate and also prevent the patterns from continuing. We can say something here like, "Ouch, that comment hurt." Even if the comment wasn't directed at us, "Ouch, that hurt." Or, "I imagine that if I was a person from this group, that would really hurt." If the person has a defensive response like, "I didn't mean to offend." Acknowledge that and maybe give the benefit of the doubt and say something like, "I hear you, but I want to focus on the impact because regardless of intent, those words can be pretty hurtful, pretty mean, pretty alienating." However you want to finish that.

Disarming has to do with going to the next step, which is we're going to say why. Sometimes this is hard because in the moment you, you might not necessarily feel like you have the right words for it. Maybe you could spend some time saying, "Well, let's think about why." If you're a student leader in your group, let's think about why these comments might be hurtful or offensive. What are the messages that they can convey? What could you maybe do instead? For example, maybe instead you could catch yourself and think about if you're making a comment that's based on a stereotype that could have a negative assumption to it. Or maybe instead, you can try to learn more about this group and ask yourself how much real experience do I have with people from this subgroup? Maybe you could compliment something that doesn't have anything to do with somebody's cultural identity, but maybe you could keep your compliments more about maybe somebody accomplishments or their contribution.

When we take things to this level, especially if we're a bystander or if we're in a position of, of power, for example, as a faculty person or as a student leader, this is something that is really validating to the person who's on the receiving end. Not only is it affirming who they are and their identity, but also it's letting them know this isn't going to be tolerated on this campus. We're not out to punish people, but we are going to support you and make sure that you're protected.

Lastly, we just need to remember that we are all on the learning curve here. We do need to extend each other, both grace and understanding on this process but that doesn't mean silence and that doesn't mean that we don't address things. We should all come from a position of we all have growth to do. We all have learning to do.And when we do make mistakes, even when they're not intentional, as they probably mostly are, that we don't try to defend or coverup. We actually do say, "I'm sorry. I realized what I just said might have been conveying some kind of assumption based on a stereotype. I apologize." We should be honest about our privilege and that we have things to learn. There are things that we don't understand and we should be open to learning about and preventing microaggressions.

I hope this is helpful and now we'll pass it over to Dr. Bonnie King. Thank you all very much.

Dr. Bonnie King:
Hi, this is Dr. Bonnie King, Assistant Professor of Counseling at Texas Women's University. I'm here today to talk to you about microaggressions that typically occur with LGBTQ+ populations on college campuses and how you can help support your LGBTQ+ friends, colleagues, and fellow students.

Some common microaggressions that are experienced by LGBTQ+ populations include heterosexist, transphobic, or homophobic terminology. This is usually not directed at someone and usually occurs through jokes, such as "That's so gay" or "Don't act like a homo." Weaponizing religion is another microaggression that can occur. Telling someone that they're a sinner, going to hell, or that they're wrong for expressing their non-heteronormative sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as denial of heterosexism or transphobia. Denying the experience of someone who's experienced discrimination. For example, if someone tells you that they've experienced discrimination or they're hurt by a microaggression, saying something like, "I'm sure they didn't mean that" or "You're being too sensitive" could be harmful to this population.

Micro-insults are negative assumptions that often occur with this population, include assuming sexual orientation based on gender expression. Gender expression is our outward appearance, how we dress and that can occur in a variety of ways for a variety of people. Some people dress more feminine, some people dress more masculine and that's not necessarily an expression of their sexual orientation. We don't want to make assumptions about their sexual orientation based on the way they dress.
We also want to stay away from assuming sexual pathology or abnormality in non-straight sexual orientations. For example, assuming a positive HIV status or pedophilia. When we lean into negative stereotypes, that can be very harmful to this population. We don't want to assume sexual behavior or proposition sexual behavior based on gender expression or orientation. Just because someone dresses a certain way or they have a sexual orientation, that does not mean that they want to have sex or that they engage in certain sexual  practices. We want to stay away from making assumptions about this. For example, assuming a bisexual person is polyamorous.

Particularly for transgender and gender non-conforming folks, we want to stay away from misgendering this population. If someone shares with us that their gender identity is a certain way, we want to respect that and use their preferred pronouns and names. We want to avoid asking too many questions that are very personal, particularly about body, the way that they have sex or their genitalia. This seems common sense because these are questions that you would avoid asking anyone, but this does occur rather frequently for transgender individuals.

We want to avoid assuming sexual orientation. Just because someone is gender non-conforming doesn't mean that they have a specific sexual orientation. They can have any sexual orientation. They could be gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, or any other sexual orientation that feels right to them.

We want to avoid using a dead name. A dead name is the name that was given to an individual at birth that no longer resonates with the person's current transgender identity. We want to avoid using the name they were given at birth and just stick with the name that they prefer.

How to help. First of all, we can learn, listen, and grow. If you make a mistake, you can change your language, use, or address a bias. If you're corrected on an assumption, make a note and change your patterns of belief. It's also okay to ask questions and learn how to best respect another person. For example, asking about gender pronouns preferred and trying to use them regularly.

How to stand up when you notice microaggressions. Stand up for yourself and your friends. You can ask questions. For example, if someone says something insensitive, you can ask, "What do you mean by that?" Sometimes just asking that question is enough to get them thinking and realize, "Oh, that's not appropriate language." You can ask respectfully for change. If something offends you or hurts your feelings, you can just ask them not to use that language again. You could suggest reading, watching, or listening material. If they're maybe confused as to why something might be offensive, or maybe they're not understanding an unaddressed bias, you can use empathy to help them connect. Sometimes asking them what it might feel like for them to hear that language or if that was said to someone they care

Page last updated 2:41 PM, August 23, 2021