What are the positives and negatives of recognizing “microaggressions”? Have you ever wondered if you might have unintentionally offended a coworker or a fellow student with an off-hand remark that you thought was harmless? If you have wondered this, then you have discovered the world of microaggressions, where some proponents believe helps us navigate a diverse world more sensitively while other people believe chills free speech and creates a culture of victimhood. According to the article, “College Students Confront Subtler Forms of Bias,” by Teresa Watanabe and Jason Song, advocates of microaggression awareness argue that it helps us create a fairer society and detractors of microaggression awareness dispute its effectiveness by pointing out its ability to create victims. In the article, Watanabe and Song interview Jerry Kang, a professor of law and AsianAmerican studies, and who is a supporter of microaggression theory. “’Having multiple vocabulary and methods for measuring how fair and square we are is always a good thing for society,’” Kang is quoted as saying. To Kang, the study of microaggressions will create a society where people are able to confront and understand the inequities that keep people from feeling like they are a part of the world they live in. This point of view is often used by supporters of microaggression study, but there are also plenty of people who feel the rise of microaggressions is causing more harm than good. However, the insistence that microaggressions are harmful to students creates people who have too thin skins and might be unable to function in society. “The movement is transforming society from a ’dignity culture,’ in which people are taught to have thick skins and refuse to allow others to affect their sense of self-worth, to a ’victimhood culture’ that advertises personal oppression,” Bradley Campbell was quoted as saying in the article. By being unable to overcome even the slightest of unintentional insults, students are being taught not to overcome the daily problems that everybody experiences. While there are detractors of microaggression study, there are also people who feel that focusing on microaggressions makes life safer for marginalized students. As you can see, the concept of microaggressions has created strong feelings both in its supporters and its detractors. There are those who feel microaggressions must be confronted in
order to create a fairer society while others believe focusing on microaggressions causes more conflict. It has become readily apparent following the most recent presidential election that issues of race and discrimination has created deep divisions in some Americans. Studying microaggressions could ultimately help those divisions, but if recent history is any guide, focusing on these minor slights might also cause people to feel resentment.