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How Can Teachers Reduce Racial Microaggressions?

Teacher Reflects
Acknowledge, Counter, Engage and Accept

Teachers, consider the possibility that you may unconsciously commit racial microaggressions in the classroom? Watch this short video, titled ‘The Invisible Discriminator’ – Stop. Think. Respect.  This Public Service Announcement provides clear examples of microaggressions in everyday life. Racial microaggressions such as these may occur across all types of interracial communications; however, those that have the potential for the greatest harm are those perpetrated by majority culture individuals toward persons in disempowered racial groups.

According to Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology and Education in TC’s Counseling Psychology program in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, racial microaggressions are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults that potentially have harmful psychological impact on the target person or group”

Let’s switch the scene to your classroom. Now, reflect on your physical, verbal and non-verbal behaviors towards students of color.

Ask yourself three tough questions.

1. How do I behave and act around students of color?

2. How do students of color perceive my behaviors and actions toward them?

3. Do I commit racial microaggressions toward students of color?

Consider the possibility that you may commit racial microaggressions.  Stop and think about how those comments or actions may cause real distress and harm to them.

Four strategies that may reduce racial microaggressions

1. Acknowledge – acknowledge you may unconsciously commit racial microaggressions. Only then can then change your subconscious attitudes and ultimately your behavior towards students of color. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.

2. Counter – counter your hidden bias with positive images of people of color. Distribute stories and pictures that portray stereotype-busting images – posters, newsletters, annual reports, speaker series, and podcasts throughout your classroom.

3. Engage – engage with students of color by focusing on your similarities, yet appreciating your differences. You can achieve this by engaging with students of color in situations that involve meaningful activity.

4. Accept – accept their racial reality by looking at situations or experiences from their vantage. Do not minimize  their racial identity, or avoid the discomfort of discussing racial issues with them.

All of these strategies require work and I encourage you to keep doing them. As long as racial microaggressions remain hidden, invisible, unspoken and excused as innocent slights with minimal harm, individuals will continue to insult, demean, alienate, and oppress marginalized groups. It is incumbent upon educators to make every effort to recognize and address racial microaggressions in our schools.

 

 

 

Author:

For the past decade, Ms. Gwendolyn Miller focused her career exclusively on providing educators with tools designed to identify and eliminate racial microaggressions in the classroom. As a result, she has developed pedagogical strategies that enable teachers to create the optimal academic environment, free of racial microaggressions. Through her online courses, educators gain expert insights into the classroom experiences of students of color and their responses to racial microaggressions. As a result, educators will learn the major causes of racial microaggressions: The failure to recognize unconscious biases; The failure to recognize how unconscious bias plays a major role in discriminatory assumptions about students of color; The failure to recognize how these assumptions affect daily interactions with students of color; and The failure to recognize how these assumptions ultimately result in racial microaggressions. A Lifetime of Relevant Experience Following a career as a classroom teacher, Gwendolyn decided to pursue her Master of Science Degree in Education from the Applied Psychology and Human Development Division of the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. During her studies, she conducted significant research on the issue of racial microaggressions in the classroom. Inspired by her research, she embarked on her a career as a consultant on racial microaggressions. She has worked with school faculties and district leaders to promote positive inter-ethnic interactions and enhance the educational experience of students of color. A Proven Approach Gwendolyn has presented workshops related to the problem of systemic racism in educational institutions at numerous conferences, including the National Association for Multicultural Education, Teachers College Roundtable on Multicultural Psychology and Education, National Conference on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Higher Education, American Psychological Association Convention and the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference.

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