'SAY WHAT?!': Miami students told that 'microaggressions can hurt'

Resident Assistants at the University of Miami erected a display titled “SAY WHAT?!” to brief students on what microaggressions are, why they “matter,” and how they can be stopped.

The bulletin board in University Village Building 2—titled “SAY WHAT?!”—informs readers that "a microaggression is a brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities [sic], whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate [sic] hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults toward people of color, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, etc."

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Scattered throughout the display are examples of phrases that constitute microaggressions, such as “You Speak English very well,” “I don’t see color,” and “Can I touch your hair?”

After defining the term, the board goes on to explain why microaggressions “matter,” saying, “We live in a diverse community here at the U and need to be RESPECTFUL of everyone around us.

“They may not seem like much, but microaggressions can hurt,” the board asserts, elaborating that “people often hear many microaggressions in a single day and these can build up,” which psychologist Alvin Poussaint called “death by a thousand nicks."

The final section of the board—“What can you do?”—outlines strategies that students can use to “be an advocate for change.”

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“If you hear a microaggression, confront the person about it,” the RAs suggest. “Ask ‘what makes you say that?’ or ‘did you know that that can actually be taken as offensive?’”

The board cautions, however, that “simply telling someone they’re wrong doesn’t remedy a situation,” and encourages students to “teach them how what they are saying can be hurtful and offer better ways to approach those conversations or questions.”

Campus Reform contacted the Department of Housing and Residential Life, as well as the Area Director for University Village, for additional information about the display, but neither had responded by press time.

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