Microaggressions can be ‘lethal,’ profs tells Berkeley students

A UCLA professor told students at the University of California, Berkeley Wednesday night that “racial microaggressions” can be “lethal” because they lead to “racial battle fatigue.”

Dr. Daniel Solorzano, a Sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, also declared that racial microaggressions are a tool to “keep those at the racial margins systemically in their place” during his lecture on “Free Speech and Racial Microaggressions.”

Solorzano rejected the conventional definition of microaggressions as often-unintentional behaviors that have no malicious intent, but are perceived as such. Instead, he argued that they should be perceived as “assaults directed at people of color” based on the “academic, psychological, and sociological toll on those targeted.”

[RELATED: ‘Diversity educators’ fear ‘burnout’ from ‘microaggressions’]

Solorzano further asserted during a follow-up interview with Campus Reform that, due to the ubiquity of racism in American society, “the ‘micro’ in microaggressions does not mean ‘less than’ [macroaggressions]. The micro in microaggressions means ‘in the everyday’” [emphasis his].

On several occasions throughout the event, the UCLA professor even went so far as to say that such constant exposure to microaggressions can actually be “lethal” to those on the receiving end of them.

“The accumulative stress from racial microaggressions produces racial battle fatigue,” declared one slide in the presentation. “The stress of unavoidable front-line racial battles in historically white spaces leave People of Color feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. The stress from racial microaggressions can become lethal when the accumulation of racial psychological symptoms from racial battle fatigue goes untreated or are dismissed completely.”

Notably, however, data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that in 2016, blacks had the lowest suicide rate of any racial demographic, just below Asian/Pacific Islanders and significantly lower than American Indians and whites (Hispanics are considered separately).

[RELATED: CSU hires counselor to deal with ‘racial battle fatigue’]

Solorzano also claimed that President Trump has incited microaggressions during both his campaign and his presidency, speculating that Trump was instigating such incidents in order to continue the systematic oppression of racial minorities. 

As evidence, he displayed photos of high school students posing in front of a “wall” they had constructed out of cardboard boxes with the caption “we built the wall before Trump!” 

Perturbed by this incident, Solorzano said he “can’t possibly imagine how this incident affected the 9% of this school population that is Latino.”

Solorzano also cited Trump’s support for constructing a border wall and rhetoric directed at criminal illegal aliens, as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Trump Effect” study, as evidence of the “overt racism” wrapped up in Trump’s presidency.

[RELATED: Latinos ask Cornell to punish frat for ‘build a wall’ chant]

“I am not calling for censorship. I’m saying that we Need to Acknowledge and Disrupt the Discourses of Racial Microaggressions in the Everyday,” Solorzano told Campus Reform [capitalization and emphasis his].

“I use the metaphor of a Tree,” he elaborated. “Racial Microaggressions are the Leaves. The Trunk of the Tree is Institutional Racism. The branches of the Tree are the various Systems where People of Color experience Everyday Racism—Educational, Political, Criminal Justice, Mass Media, Economic, and Health Systems. The Roots of the Tree is white supremacy.

“I’m defining white supremacy as the assigning of values to real or imagined differences, in order to justify the inherent superiority of whites over People of Color and therefore the right and power of whites to dominance over People of Color,” Solorzano explained. “Racial Microaggressions are one way that white supremacy manifests itself for People of Color in the everyday.”

This is the impetus for Solorzano’s newest research topic: racial microaffirmations. 

Observing that students of color “don’t go to certain places on campus, certain restaurants, certain stores, because it can literally kill them” due to being perpetually microaggressed and “racial battle fatigued,” Solorzano said he is beginning to research “counter space” culture and “racial microaffirmations” based in shared cultural intimacy. 

“People of Color need to affirm the dignity and humanity of one another as a response to everyday racism,” he asserted.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @bradleydevlin