Awareness and Microaggressions

The story that I would like to share is not so much one incident but something that has occurred more than once in different situations.  At first I thought that I was just being silly but then I heard it from others who expressed the same views as me.  A few weeks ago myself and one of the teachers were talking with a parent and she ended the conversation  referring to us as girls. The teacher and I looked at each other and it was clear we were thinking the same thing.  The teacher very heatedly expressed that she was forty years old, not a child.  On another occasion I remember my mom telling me about a nurse that she worked with that kept referring to her as a girl until she corrected her.  When I spoke with my mom about it she said that it bothered her that the lady called her girl but that the lady had not realized this bothered her until my mom told her so.  The funny thing is that even though the people involved in the conversations were of different races, neither my mom, the teacher or myself perceived these comments to be a racial issue but even still it bothered us.  As I learned more about microaggressions this week I think the problem that we had was that we felt invalidated by the comments.  My mother is over fifty years old and even though the lady was older they were both adults and should have been treated as such.  I don't think that I am older than the parent but the other teacher is even still the problem for me with being called girl is I feel that it is sounds demeaning when addressing an adult even when that is not the intent.  Another example, I recently attended a marathon training course and the trainer constantly called us girls.  "Okay girls," "Let's get ready for this girls," "Girls, do you think we can work on this," all day long and it was very annoying. At the end of the training when we completed our evaluations although I thought the training to be very informative I suggested that she choose another word.

My center has several children enrolled with special needs. One afternoon one of the children was being extra difficult to handle.  The teacher carried him over to the door and asked if he had had his meds for the day.  Offhand that may have seemed like a normal question to ask since he does in fact take meds each afternoon but it the context in which she asked that made me pause.  I believe this to have been a microinsult as she may have been speaking out of pure frustration but it was very demeaning to him.

This week I have been given a reminder that sticks and stones are not the only way to hurt a person.  Words can be very damaging no matter how innocent we may think they are.  We have to be honest in acknowledging our own biases, prejudices and stereotypes.  If we are not honest about we run the risk of hurting others with our words.  As educators it is our responsibility to teach children that words do hurt and how to use their words to help not harm.

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