And some of it has been real clumsy. Saying what I'm about to say probably runs the risk of making some people uncomfortable, or wonder "gosh, have I ever done any of these things?" I don't have a running record in my mind of who has won/lost points here, and I'm not writing this because I want anyone to wonder whether s/he owes me an apology. I'm writing this because it has seemed clear from recent interactions that a lot of people don't know what microaggressions are or don't recognize when they commit them, so I'm highlighting them with the intention of increasing awareness and hopefully reducing the likelihood of similar microaggressions in the future. Consider this part 2 of a running course on supporting teachers of color-- not that I have any authority or expertise here except my own experiences, many of which provide evidence that I am not the only one who feels the way I feel-- three ways NOT to support teachers/educators/people of color:
- Protecting them from difficult conversations. I appreciate the care-- I really, truly do, and one of the reasons I keep working here is because people rally around each other when something's not quite right. However, this is not my first rodeo, and I am not going to break (or fly off the handle, or collapse in tears, or whatever emotional reaction is feared). The care starts to feel a bit overly solicitous when it verges into:
- Expressions of shock/surprise. I'm guessing the intention here is to express solidarity and to express that the speaker finds this situation totally unacceptable. But there is nothing shocking or surprising to me about being the target of public racism, or having my voice/the voices of people who look like me be ignored or dismissed. It happens all the time, in fact, and when I hear someone express shock or surprise, it just sounds like a declaration of their privilege.
- Apologies for "forcing" me to talk about this. I'm guessing the intention here is to acknowledge that this is a painful situation, and talking about it means reliving and prolonging the pain. And totally-- it is painful, and each additional conversation is painful. But, painful conversations can also be clarifying, restorative, and sometimes educational (to at least one party). If I don't want to talk about something, I am adult enough to say I don't want to talk about it, and I hope you'll respect me when I do. Until I do, however, I hope you'll respect that I'm adult enough to make my own choices about who I want to talk to and when, and that you are not "forcing" me to do anything I am not making a deliberate choice to do.
- Talking around me. I have heard from several people that "we were talking about how you must be feeling" in one conversation or another, often from or with people who haven't actually asked me how I'm feeling. I wonder what is happening in these conversations without me-- are people trying to guess how I'm feeling? Projecting their own feelings onto me? Discussing how to protect me or how not to force me into talking? I am all for people having more conversations about the issue(s), but I'm not sure I need people to be talking about my feelings behind my back.
That's it for now, although I'm sure this isn't the end of the conversation (in fact, I sure hope the recent tryptophan infusion-- and concurrent days off from work-- doesn't have a soporific effect on what's yet to come). More later, including some potential musings on anger and fear, both of which seem to be fully on display these days.