Let me explain the blog title. This definition comes from Psychology Today (see https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/microaggressions-in-everyday-life/201011/microaggressions-more-just-race)
Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.Sadly, I may have made a microaggression as I was getting ready to attend a session on microaggressions. I mixed up the presenters of "Microaggressions in Schools: Making the Invisible Visible" (Sharla Falodi and Farah Rahemtula, who shared it at the TDSB Unleashing the Learning conference as well as this TDSB Beginning Teachers Equity conference) with the presenters of "Microaggressions in Your School Library" (Gemsy Joseph and Deborah Haines, who shared it at the OLA SuperConference). It wasn't intentional, but that's the thing about microaggressions: it's not the intent but the impact that matters.
Fabulous presentation on micro aggressions in our libraries by Deborah Haines and Gemsy Joseph. Love the distinction between equality and equity. See their resource here https://t.co/nYe9OaqsGS. @HCI_library @tdsb_FHCI_LLC -LLC @TDSBLibrary pic.twitter.com/4mnCox3fGv— Ms. Surdivall (@Tina_Surdivall) February 1, 2019
A fabulous group of Beginning Teachers discussing student and educator experiences with microaggressions in @tdsb. What might the potential interpretations be? Sitting with voices from various identities, reflecting on impacts, & how to disrupt. @Farah_Rahemtula #TDSBequityOISE pic.twitter.com/XT1lAMWfVG— Sharla Falodi 🗯 (@SharlaFalodi) February 13, 2019
Both Sharla/Farah and Deborah/Gemsy referred to this video, which is worth viewing multiple times.
As I alluded earlier, unfortunately, mixing up the presenters was not the only microaggression I made. I made a bigger one during my own presentation earlier.
Because it makes “cisgender” a verb! It’s an adjective. (And the same applies to “transgender;” “transgendered” is incorrect.) “Verbing” the word implies that gender is an action that a person takes, effectively designating it a choice rather than a state of being.— FC (@beewielder) February 2, 2019
I spoke about Anti-Oppression Opportunities for Media Literacy with Michelle Solomon. We named our privilege and tried to include as many identities and examples as possible. Somehow, we were able to finish with time to spare for questions and comments. Someone called us out on our choice of visuals and examples and said that we focused too much on the negative, and not enough on positive representations. I apologized. Michelle and I felt terrible about it afterwards. It's easy to get defensive and start to numerate the amount of positive examples we had included but weren't mentioned in the criticism, but we stopped ourselves. I know I asked myself why I didn't include the photos circulating Twitter right now of decorated doors that celebrate black hair and positive black representations. I do it in class (i.e. reading books about beautiful black hair like the book, Don't Touch My Hair, I borrowed from amazing teacher-librarian Rabia Khokar as well as discussing the teen wrestler who was assaulted with scissors to his dreadlocks) so why didn't I do a better, balanced job then?
When your principal says decorate your doors for Black History Month, why not make sure it is steeped in cultural competence. @LC3_TDSB @MsPoulis @JS_tdsb @nplc3_tdsb @jeewanc @MsPoulis @SherylZona @LizBHolder pic.twitter.com/x0juPV6p0b— P Duah (@iamprinceduah) February 2, 2019
I was still thinking about my conference session on Friday when I attended my book club meeting. Thank you to the educators who are a part of that wonderful group that allowed me to bring up the incident and helped me to make sense of it within the context of the book we are studying. I won't go into further detail, but thanks again Ken, Courtney, Ruth, Leslie, and Josephine. Mistakes are part of learning.
The conference in between those two workshops (mine at 10:30 am and the one on microaggressions at 2:00 pm) was still full of learning, although maybe not as emotionally charged. Big thanks to my friend Tracey Davies, who carpooled with me and made the two-hour-long commute to OISE from Scarborough bearable. Tracey and I used to have such rich conversations when she drove us back from our Media AQ course a couple of years back and it was good to have the time to reconnect and share our thoughts while on the road. Thanks also to Ashley Clarke, who accompanied Tracey and I back to the east end of the city after the conference was over. Ashley was an LTO at our school last year; (I wrote about her on this blog previously) she is a permanent teacher elsewhere now but both the students and I miss her immensely. Thanks to Alicia and Casey for their excellent talk on anti-bias education in the early years, and to Jennifer Watt for organizing such a great conference. Also thanks to the people I had the pleasure of chatting with at lunch, an informal way to keep the learning going: Rizwan, Andrea, Iniyal, and a bunch of people whose names I've just forgotten (one of whom just won a prestigious award - how have I forgotten?).
I'm writing about my humiliation publicly not to collect any "poor-me-points" but rather to illustrate that there are going to be awkward and uncomfortable moments when doing equity and anti-bias work. It doesn't mean we should stop trying to be better, but we need to understand how the fog of the implicit bias we live and experience shapes us in ways we are unaware and think, reflect, read more, listen more and continue to try.