President’s Diversity Council holds workshop on microaggressions

Shiann Sivell

Approximately 30 students and faculty attended a workshop about the impact of microaggressions at the Russell Union on Wednesday.

The workshop, titled “Did You Just Say That?”, is one of several workshops within the President’s Diversity Advisory Council Workshop Series.

Former GS president Jaimie Hebert proposed the idea of a workshop series, but the President’s Diversity Advisory Council held the first workshop Wednesday, Interim Associate Provost Maxine Bryant said.

“[These] workshops exist to increase awareness across campus that microaggressions do exist,” Bryant said. “They are about how you deal with them when they occur.”

The workshop fostered an open discussion about some of the microaggressions that exist in American society.

Microaggressions are everyday snubs or slurs that are usually so subtle that they can easily be overlooked, Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Takeshia Brown said.

“Overall, microaggressions are deeply seated in stereotypes,” Brown said. “Sometimes they’re negative, sometimes they can be positive, but can still be limited.”

During her presentation, Bryant compared microaggressions to mosquito bites. When they bite people once in a while, they are annoying and don’t cause much harm, she said, but when they bite people constantly, they become a never-ending itch.

Among the attendees was Mark Stewart, a computer services specialist in the Information Technology Department.

Stewart was one of only two white males present during the workshop. Stewart said he decided to attend the presentation out of interest, but by the end, he was wary about talking to different people.

“[The presentation] taught me not to talk to anybody, that everybody’s mad at the world about something,” Stewart said. “I’m not going to say nothing to nobody now.”

Despite Stewart’s reaction, he said he would still be interested in attending future workshops.

“I like visiting people and I like finding out where [they] are from,” Stewart said. “I just like to know.”

Another attendee, Kalah Graves, junior English major and NAACP member, said she enjoys attending presentations of this nature and finds them helpful.

“I appreciated it,” Graves said. “Not only are students learning from it, but people who are already supposed to enjoy these things are still learning as well.”

Bryant said microaggressions are a learned behavior and that learned behaviors exist in the back of people’s minds, even when they know the behaviors are harmful.

“Racism is the Berlin Wall in America,” Bryant said. “It’s our biggest hole that we can’t seem to climb out of, so to speak.”

The next workshop, called “Unpacking Privilege,” will take place Oct. 15 at 11:30 a.m. in Russell Union 2047. The workshops are free and open to the public.

Shiann Sivell, The George-Anne Enterprise Reporter, [email protected]