social differences/systematic consequences

I’ve just spent the last two hours transfixed by this website.  Definitely worth perusing!

A few personal asides:

I must say that I’m sure my (white) dad would have gotten on the bus and had some words with folks if that thing had happened to me (you’ll read it)…

biracial people can be as insensitive as everybody else and aren’t always the “victims” of ignorant words…

the “you’re gay be with that gay guy” one reminds me of the times someone has wanted to fix me up with someone they’re sure I’m perfect for and it turns out it’s just the other “black” person they know….


this project is a response to “it’s not a big deal” – “it” is a big deal.  ”it” is in the everyday.  ”it” is shoved in your face when you are least expecting it.  ”it” happens when you expect it the most.  ”it” is a reminder of your difference.  ”it” enforces difference.  ”it” can be painful.  ”it” can be laughed off.  ”it” can slide unnoticed by either the speaker, listener or both.  ”it” can silence people.  ”it” reminds us of the ways in which we and people like us continue to be excluded and oppressed.  ”it” matters because these relate to a bigger “it”: a society where social difference has systematic consequences for the “others.”

but “it” can create or force moments of dialogue.


This blog seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of “microaggressions.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves.  Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects.  Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult.  Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.

The term “microaggressions” was originally coined to speak particularly to racialized experiences.

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”  – “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life”

This blog, however, is a space to extend this concept to different socially constructed identities that embody privilege in different ways – sexuality, class, religion, education level, to name a few – in hopes of making visible the ways in which social difference is produced and policed in everyday lives through comments of people around you.

  • Me, a light-skinned biracial girl at a party last weekend:: Okay, a Jack means categories.
  • White guy:: How about minorities you would sleep with?
  • Me:: As a minority, I find that offensive, like sleeping with us is a sacrifice.
  • He looks at me like he hadn’t realized he was in “mixed” company and back-pedals (“I didn’t mean it THAT way”); kisses my ass for the rest of the night, but never apologizes. Made me feel frustrated and invisible.
  • Teacher :: Black men are naturally more aggressive and strong than white men.
  • Me:: No, it has to depend on the man, surely.
  • Teacher :: Not really, no white man could…
  • Me:: Your husband is 6ft tall well built and my dad is 5’7ft and very lean, your husband could wipe the floor with him.
  • Teacher :: There are odd exceptions but, in general.
  • I was 15, Secondary School, England 2001. Made me feel gobsmacked, worried that I would be graded unfairly.
  • I was at the mall earlier today with a group of friends. Another guy from school joins us.
  • New guy:: So, what are you?
  • Me:: My ethnic background?
  • Him:: Yeah
  • Me:: Well, I’m French, Spanish, Irish, Italian, Black American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, American Indian–
  • Him:: No you’re not
  • Me:: Pardon?
  • Him:: You can’t be American Indian. They’re all extinct.
  • I am a 17 year old girl, at a shopping mall. Made me feel frustrated, invisible, patronized.

    They probably just had a crush on you.”

    -What my white father said when I told him two white students called me the n-word on the bus.

    “I would never, ever hire someone with a “black” name on their resume. I wouldn’t even interview them.

    -An African American co-worker at a team dinner.

    • Girl at country themed bar:: Hey, you’re black…
    • Me, a 23-year old male::
    • Girl:: I’m not racist or anything…but WTF are you doing here? There are Confederate rebel flags and sh*t here.
    • Me:: ….
    • Girl:: Oh, I know. You’re here for the white girls.
    • Me:: -_-
    • Girl:: Buy me a drink.
    • Made me a bit uncomfortable.
    • Customer:: If more black people were like you the world would be a better place.
    • Black me:: Have a nice day.
    • What I wanted to say:: If fewer people were as ignorant as you, people who look like me would have better lives. I was 18. (He was in his 40s or 50s.) when: spring 1998, working at Barnes & Noble in Louisiana. 

    You know, it’s so amazing. I was just looking at your hands and feet- they’re so dark on the top, but then at the palms they look just like ours! Hahaha.”

    -My gymnastics coach in front of my suburban, entirely-white team, in which I am the only black person.

    • Workfriend:: Hey that new guy at work is gay; you should totally be with him.
    • Me:: No I don’t find him attractive.
    • Workfriend:: But… he’s gay! You’re gay, he’s gay, what’s stopping you??
    • Me:: Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean-
    • Workfriend:: Ummmmm, he’s gay. He likes having sex with guys like you. You’re just afraid. Duhhh.

    I was 21, at work. Made me feel annoyed, hurt and trivialized. Gay people don’t have sex with anyone just because they are both gay.



    He was pretty dark, so he’s probably not paying rent because he’s an illegal and doesn’t know English.”

    -My (white) stepfather regarding one of his renters. Made me ashamed because I’m Hispanic, too.

    I’m a black woman. My black female friend once told me that a white guy once said to her, “You’re really pretty for a black girl.” And her response was, “I know.”

    Made me realize her and my own unrecognized self hate. Made me feel sad and guilty.

    You could pass for Dominican; some of them are really dark and have bad hair like you. Luckily, I got the GOOD hair”.”

    -Said to me by the black Dominican-American boyfriend of my biracial (black/white) friend visiting us during Spring Break. I am a 20 year old black American woman with naturally kinky-curly hair. Made me feel shocked, ugly, unimportant.

    This 1895 charicature is an unkind parody of a woman seeking to smooth out her hair. The comic strip suggests that her hair stood out on end because of a hair-raising novel.
    • My black/white biracial friend looks at the Facebook profile of a black man she’s crushing on.
    • Her:: Ugh, his [mono-racial and black] girlfriend is so ugly. They’d have kids with huge nasty noses. He needs to get with me and my good mixed nose. *giggles*

    I am a black 20 year old American woman. We were studying together at another friend’s apartment. Made me feel insulted, ugly, disfigured, and defective.

    You know why Vermont is so safe, don’t you? There’s hardly any minorities in it!”

    I was in NY yesterday, meeting my future in-laws for the first time when my fiance’s father said this. He is a white man in his 70s. I am a 22 year old biracial black cis woman …who lives in Vermont. It made me feel furious, invisible, helpless, rejected.

    inspiration for an 11 year old girl

    i’m breaking my tradition of just posting an inspirational quote with no title, no commentary because yesterday someone found their way to this blog by doing an internet search for “how can 11 yr.old girl accept being biracial.”  i’ve been mildly haunted by this.  i don’t have advice to offer from personal experience because when i was eleven, i didn’t think of myself as biracial exactly.  so, though i was dealing with it and certainly many of my issues stemmed from it, i wasn’t pondering my life through that lens.  i couldn’t have verbalized my angst in those terms.  and, even if i could have, who knows how vastly different my situation was from that of the child who prompted the search.  anyway, i just thought i’d post a few of these inspirational thingies i’m so very fond of in hopes that one or two of them might be just the perspective shifter or the advice needed to help in this situation….

    4th grade

    wow… what a disparity… i find this project fascinating and heartbreaking.  i also can’t help but think that there is a direct correlation between the racist advertising of old and the wide gulf between the experience of the predominantly white private school fourth grader and that of the student in the predominantly black inner city public school.

    Drastically Different 4th Grade Stories

    Two years ago, Judy Gelles was volunteering at an inner city public school and was assigned to a fourth-grade class. The school was as diverse as they come with children from African American, Hispanic and Asian immigrants. After several months of helping the students with their reading skills, she felt the need to connect with them on a deeper level. Mostly, she wanted to find out their stories.

    She asked each student the following three questions:
    Whom do they live with?
    What do they wish for?
    What do they worry about?

    Inner City School USA

    African-American, Hispanic, and Asian immigrants make up the fabric of this school. The majority of the children are African American. Many students come from broken families and live in dangerous neighborhoods. This is a “lock down” school. The gray fortress main door of the school becomes a blank slate for the students’ words. Their stories capture the gamut of societal issues: violence, immigration, the demise of the nuclear family, and the impact of the media and popular culture.

    The biggest takeaway? “Family is extremely important to all children,” Gelles said. “They all need parents and relatives who care for them and look out for their future.”

    After Judy Gelles learned about the deeply troubling stories of inner city 4th graders, she became even more curious. What were 4th grade children experiencing in different schools not just in the US but around the world? Across cultures, which values remained the same and which were starkly different? She not only compared an inner city school with a private one in the United States, she traveled abroad to India and China.


    Caucasian, African-American, Latino, and Asian students make up the fabric of the school. The majority of the children are Caucasian. The white clapboard main door of the school becomes a blank slate for their words. Most of these students love their school, come from two-parent families, and feel protected by their parents. They have high expectations of themselves, and worry about the negative effects of war, hunger, and global warming. A silent worship service for students and teachers takes place once a week from 8:30am to 9:00am. Anyone is allowed to share a message during this service.

    These were her findings:

    Inner city schools in the US have many problems due to the children’s chaotic family structure.
    Students in the private schools in the US are more fortunate.
    Students in China value education, and are extremely close to their parents.
    In India, kindness, moral values, family, and education are highly valued.