Prof suggests counseling for victims of microaggressions

An associate professor at the University of Rhode Island (URI) recently discovered that many students cope with “racial microaggressions” by going home and crying it out.

Annemarie Vaccaro, who teaches graduate classes at URI, used focus groups to probe 18 students of color on how they cope with the “racial microaggressions” they face on their predominantly white women’s college campus.

The study was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Women in Higher Education, which aims to publish research on issues impacting women at all levels of higher education.

Microaggressions can include many “brief and common” perceived insults or slights, according to Vaccaro—who, as Campus Reform reported last August, coined the term “invisibility microaggressions” to describe when students of color “feel invisible.”

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In her latest study, Vaccaro found that many students cope with microaggressions by going home and crying it out. In a section titled, “It’s Easier to Just Go Home,” she details some of the coping mechanisms that her interviewees used.

“Kim, who described herself as introverted, found it easier to say nothing and retreat to the comfort of home where she could cry it out,” Vaccaro writes, adding that Kim, an Asian student, told her that “It’s so easy to just want to retreat, and...just be like ‘I don’t think I want to do this anymore.’ It’s just easier to go home.”

Another student, Lizette, “started crying about her experiences,” Vaccaro noted.

“For me, I think the most painful things...I keep it inside. As far as smaller things, like other little problems, or whatever, I usually turn close friends...But the things that are more painful I tend to keep them to myself,” Lizette said during the focus group.

Other students reported coping with microaggressions by avoiding professors, faculty members, and staff that they “perceived to be racist.”

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“If they piss me off one time, that’s it, I’m not going to come back,” said Sharon, on how she deals with professors and faculty members she feels are microaggressive.

To address the “pervasive racial microaggressions” that students face, Vaccaro recommends several strategies colleges can use to help, including more counseling services for students of color, and more leadership development programs where students of color can discuss “microaggressions, activism, burnout, and self-care.”

Vaccaro did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen