Pennsylvania Colleges Issue Guide on Microaggressions

Feb 1, 2017 by

Administrators compile glossary to help professors avoid ‘microinvalidation, heteronormativity’

by Kathryn Blackhurst –

Three Pennsylvania colleges recently took their concern for students dealing with “microaggressions,” “microinsults,” “microassaults” and “microinvalidations” to a new level when they published a joint guide on correctly defining words related to “anti-oppression and allyship.”

The guide, which was released online through a collaboration between Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore, includes definitions for at least 111 words and phrases that were provided “anonymously by students,” unless otherwise noted. With the purpose of spurring “thinking, conversation, and further learning,” the guide seeks to educate scholars about the stigmas and meaning behind words they may carelessly utter but which could be triggering.

“Reverse racism does not actually exist, because racism is a structure, and people of color do not structurally oppress white people.”

“These definitions are starting points, and are not comprehensive or definitive. There are often other possible definitions, and are always new ways of thinking about these terms and concepts,” the guide states on the Tri-College Libraries website before offering the definitions for how students should understand these terms.

Apparently predicting that some people may take umbrage with the nebulous definitions provided by these “anonymous students,” the guide makes sure to note that “these terms are constantly evolving” and “have different meanings in different contexts.”

“This guide does not cover all of the possible meanings and connotations that each of these words can have, but is intended to be a start,” the guide reads. “We hope that they can begin thinking, conversation, and further learning, rather than serving as the final word.”

But the students at the three Pennsylvania colleges wanted to ensure that their enlightened peers understood specific meanings and contexts behind terms such as microinvalidation, heteronormativity, intersectionality, and reverse racism. And for those curious about reverse racism — though defined, the students wanted to make sure everyone knew this phenomenon doesn’t exist because social justice activists said so.

“Reverse racism does not actually exist, because racism is a structure, and people of color do not structurally oppress white people,” the guide states matter-of-factly. “Most social justice activists agree that ‘Reverse Racism’ doesn’t make sense.”

Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor for Political Science at Georgia Military College, agreed that “reverse racism” doesn’t exist — but not for the reason that the college students and social justice activists advocated.

“White, black, Asian, or any other race — if you discriminate against someone based on skin color, it’s racism. Plain and simple,” Zipperer told LifeZette in an email, though the Pennsylvania scholars may beg to differ.

As for “microinvalidation,” the guide made sure its readers understood this refers to “verbal comments or behaviors that exclude, negats [sic.], or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person with a marginalized identity.”

Apparently anyone without a marginalized identity — which the guide helpfully defines as a generic “white person” — cannot feel the true effects of microinvalidation because “being marginalized requires historical and ongoing oppression.”

The guide states that “a white person will never be marginalized because of their race,” although a white person may be marginalized if female (sexism), disabled (ableism), an immigrant (citizenship status), impoverished (classism), gay (homophobia and homonormativity), or other select exceptions to the rule.

“I wonder if the parents of students at Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr realize they are paying these colleges $60, 000 a year or so, in order that their sons and daughters, instead of learning something about math, American history, or literature, are taught, or more accurately indoctrinated, in the belief that the United States of America is ‘racist’ to the core and that we need ‘ant-racist action’ to ‘dismantle’ what are essentially the core institutions of American democracy,” Dr. John Fonte, senior fellow and director at the Center for American Common Culture at the Hudson Institute, told LifeZette in an email.

“Tuition payments might dry up pretty fast,” Fonte added.

Nevertheless, the students wished to impart their wisdom concerning such things as the theory of “intersectionality,” which says that “oppressive institutions like racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, classism, transphobia, etc. are interlapping and cannot be separated from one another.” So if someone is sexist, he must also be racist, xenophobic, transphobic, and more, if this theory is true.

Bouncing off of the idea of “microinvalidation,” the guide reassures students — under the definition of “feeling unsafe” — that such a feeling “is a legitimate emotion” because there is likely a “social and historical” context for such a feeling.

“Feeling unsafe is always legitimate, but it’s important to remember why you feel unsafe, remember the social and historical context, and remember the role of various privileges and oppressions in your own feelings of safety, or lack thereof,” the guide helpfully advises.

“Microinsults” — any “behavioral/verbal remarks or comments that convey rudeness, insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity, or other marginalized identities” — must also be avoided at all costs, the guide suggests.

Enlightened students must also ensure they understand that “gender” merely refers to “a repetitive performance of gendered symbols that becomes a coherent identity, but because it is performative, gives space for alternate iterations of gender,” whatever that means.

The students at Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore also took the time to condescend to what the guide referred to as a well-intentioned “white ally” for those facing systemic oppression.

“Allyship involves a lot of listening,” the guide reads. “One type of ally is a white ally. A white ally acknowledges the limits of her/his/their knowledge about other people’s experiences but doesn’t use that as a reason not to think and/or act …White allies don’t have it all figured out, but are committed to non-complacency.”

Ultimately, the tri-college guide seeks to “start” conversations between students while simultaneously ending any possibility of anything deemed to be a microaggression or a microinsult from rearing its ugly head.

“Welcome to 1984. This is Orewellian doublespeak at its worst,” Zipperer said. “Universities should be a place where students learn about freedom of speech. Instead, it’s a place where students learn to use fascist tactics to chill free speech.”

Source: Pennsylvania Colleges Issue Guide on Microaggressions | LifeZette

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