Prof claims microaggressions disprove notion of 'meritocracy'

An Associate Professor at the University of Rhode Island argues that microaggressions invalidate “meritocracy” and “equal-opportunity” for minorities.

Annemarie Vaccaro, who teaches about higher education, explained in an article published Tuesday that the experience of microaggressions “challenge[s] dominant ideologies of colorblindness, meritocracy, and equal opportunity” surrounding higher education.

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She maintains that “meritocracy and equal-opportunity” are ideologies that “ignore the differential treatment…experienced by individual women,” citing “microaggressions” that students of color “must overcome to be successful.”

Vaccaro, who also invented a brand new category of “invisibility microaggressions” in another article this week, began her research after being approached by a student named Chantel, who “offered to help recruit participants for a study” that would “document pervasive and covert racism at [her college] and convey women’s concerns to the administration.”

Assisted by Chantel, Vaccaro recruited and interviewed 18 women of color through “feminist focus groups,” where she probed students on their experiences on campus.

The professor claims that the students admitted to feeling relentless microaggressions from a wide list of causes, including “peers, faculty, staff, and [the college itself].”

Vaccaro argues that students’ experiences with microaggressions “also suggested meritocracy was a farce” and that “educational success was not solely related to how hard [women of color] worked,” saying, “their academic success was tempered by racial microaggressions that served as racist hurdles and afforded them unequal educational opportunities.”

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A student named Kendra, for example, described a time when her class presentation was allegedly abbreviated because of her skin color.

“Before me there were like three or four people [who] got to do their presentation whole. [Not long into my presentation the professor] … starts spinning her hands [in the air],” Kendra told Vaccaro. “She goes, ‘Could you maybe wrap it up? We’ve got more people to go.’ And at that moment, I was like, yeah, I’m the pregnant brown girl. You know? No one else got [treated like] that.”

Vaccaro concludes that students of color suffer from “non-inclusive pedagogy, curricular exclusion, lack of positive feedback, limited time to share their ideas, and differential grading” while in college.

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Moreover, the professor contends that college employees and faculty members are not as inclusive toward minorities as they should be.

“With the exception of one Faculty Member of Color, women described [college] employees as either passive bystanders of racism or active perpetrators of microaggressions,” she observes, adding that “even if employees at women’s institutions attempt to enact missions of gender equity and empowerment, they may still behave in ways that are racist.”

Vaccaro did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen