The October 14 Westridge Wednesday divisional assemblies were each devoted to the topic of microaggressions: What are they? What is their impact on students? What should be our commitment to interrupting microaggressions in our community?
Led by Westridge Director of Lower & Middle School Zanita Kelly and Ian Tatum, an expert in the areas of culturally responsive teaching, equitable practices within education, and restorative practices, the assemblies provided definition of types of microaggressions as well as key terms helpful in discussing the issue. Examples of common microaggressions, especially those that happen in schools, were presented and students were invited to reflect on and discuss their experiences with microaggressions and their impact on students. The meetings concluded with information on who students should turn to if they experience microaggressions.
“Microaggressions are called micro because they are subtle, but they are a big deal and they are common, and often we don’t know when we are doing them,” Dr. Kelly told students. “We want to be a community that is conscious and that cares and are aware of how we hurt others, often unconsciously, and to do that we need to have conversations like these.”
Students eagerly shared stories of their experiences, ranging from issues of race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status to religion, gender, and sexual orientation. When asked about the impact of microaggression on students, students’ answers included:
- I start doubting myself
- I shut down because I internalize the comments
- I feel like I don’t belong in any setting—I feel unwelcome or unwanted
- Makes you question aspects of your identity, feel shame about elements of your culture that you otherwise were proud of
- I remember them for a long time—for years
- When I experience them from teachers, I feel like I don’t have the authority to correct them
All faculty and staff members joined the meetings, which included discussions of microaggressions commonly made by teachers in the classroom and how teachers can help classes process situations that happen in class.
“We know that minority students in a majority setting experience microaggressions every day. That hurts and gives them the feeling of ‘other,’ and often takes them mentally away from their academics for a period of time,” said Kelly. “We want to have education and conversations around this be public and ongoing because students—and adults—often don’t understand the impact of their words on others. And we want students experiencing microaggressions to process what is happening so that everyone at Westridge feels comfortable and included.”