During the week of September 22, Umoja, Goucher’s black student union, held an inaugural campaign to raise awareness about racial microaggressions. Racial microaggressions are “brief and everyday slight insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to people of color.”
Umoja members tabled on Van Meter throughout the week. Students of color had the opportunity to write down microaggressions that had been directed to them on a chalkboard, and have their photo taken along with it. The idea for the campaign stemmed from a similar campaign at Harvard, where a Tumblr account was made showing students of color displaying signs with microaggressions written on them.
Though race has been a prominent topic of dialogue on campus, microaggressions have rarely come up within the conversation, if they have at all.
The microaggressions said at Goucher are a “combination of ignorance and people being rude,” Jordan Leonard ’18, an Umoja member said. Leonard added, “One of the hardest parts of discussing these things is opening the dialogue in a way that everyone feels comfortable.” He hopes the anti-microaggression campaign will serve as a starting point for future dialogue. Yabsera Faris ’17, a co-President of Umoja, explained that doing the anti-microaggression campaign during the first half of the semester “causes the conversation to continue.”
These microaggressions are present in many settings on campus, including classrooms. Robert Fletcher ’16, co-President of Umoja, said, “It’s awkward because you’re in the classroom, you can’t really address it at the moment.” The Umoja executive board explained that when students came up to the table, it was sometimes hard for them to pinpoint a specific microaggression. Once people thought of one, it was easy to come up with others that they had heard. Fletcher also added that students of color were excited to have the opportunity to “express the microaggressions that they’ve experienced [and] didn’t realize they [microaggressions] had a title.”
While only people of color experience microaggressions, one of the goals of the campaign was to educate all students on their impact. Goucher’s campus, often viewed as liberal, “is not exempt from racism” remarked Kylie Grove-Peattie ’15, who serves on the Umoja executive board. Nyasha Moony-McCoy ’16, Umoja’s treasurer, explained, “The Goucher bubble is very real [and] as a campus we feel we are above racism, ” though in reality the campus is not. It is “important to recognize that we [white people] won’t ever know what it’s like to be a person of color,” Grove-Peattie added. White activists have been known for doing a lot of talking about this issue, but perhaps what they really need to do is listen.
Umoja will be hosting a follow-up discussion about microaggressions on Tuesday, October 13 at 6pm in Buchner in the Alumni House. Umoja’s meetings are every Tuesday at 9pm in Pinkard.
They have a Facebook page, UmojaBSUGoucher, Instagram at UmojaGoucher, and Twitter @UmojaGoucherBSU.