By Caleb Diehl /// Managing Editor
Imagine years of social, cultural and unconscious prejudice compressed into one off-hand remark. That’s a rough definition of a microaggression. Following a social media campaign at Harvard, Lewis & Clark’s student-led Pluralism & Unity Board launched a Facebook page on Monday night called “I, too, am LC,” to encourage discussions about these acts.
Karissa Tom (‘16), a member of PUB, said there’s not one definition of microaggressions, but she knows they can hurt. She identifies as Asian-American. A dedicated student, she stays in Watzek library late into the night. Sometimes other students approach her and say something like, “you’re such a studious Asian.” Other encounters range from people treating her like a little kid because she’s short, to Asian fetishization that make her shiver.
“A lot of times the person who says that or does it, doesn’t realize how offensive it can actually be,” Tom said. “The person who receives that just has to deal with it in the moment, and that’s really difficult.”
Microaggressions happen at such speed, Tom added, that it’s easy to slip up. Once she said, “you go girl,” to someone who was genderqueer. After realizing she had made a mistake, she apologized, and the student thanked her.
To give students a space to share their own experiences with microaggressions, Tom and the other four members of PUB sought out an unlikely source of advice, the admin of the LC Confessions Facebook page. Tom was impressed that students commented on anonymous posts expressing hurt feelings with messages of support. “There’s a lot of negative stuff on confessions,” Tom said, “but at the same time it’s a good space for community building.”
PUB modeled its own Facebook page after LC Confessions. They displayed a Google form next to a definition of microaggression, with links to the activity at Harvard and The Microaggressions Project, a Tumblr blog. For five minutes before the page went live at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, Tom and board member Gaby Seltzer (’15) sat in silence in the Multicultural Resource Center, rushing to invite friends. By 9:00 p.m., the page had earned around 100 likes.
The trend on college campuses of confronting microaggressions through social media ignited after Harvard students debuted a play on March 7 titled, “I, too, am Harvard.” A photo campaign of the same name on Tumblr featured photographs of 63 Black students, each holding a dry-erase board with an offensive remark. The idea sprouted various imitations, reaching the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa and Oxford College.
“I, too, am LC” features the same focus on social media that defines the movements at other schools. In addition to pushing the Facebook Page, PUB coined the Twitter hashtag “#ITooAmLC.” The board is also planning an “Art Build” for Art Week, where students can respond in a physical form to their own experiences or stories they find on the Facebook page.
PUB’s project comes in the wake of LC Walk the Talk, a student-driven movement focused on solving the college’s systemic problems with representing and talking about race. But unlike Walk the Talk, “I, too, am LC,” targets not institutional issues, but everyday social interactions.
“The more you expose yourself to being open about different life experiences, then the more used to it you’ll be,” Tom said. “It won’t be difficult, because you’re doing it for other people. You want to fully respect your friends, classmates, neighbors as the humans that they are.”
Caleb Diehl is the managing editor of The Pioneer Log. His work has also appeared in The Park Record and on the Lewis & Clark School of Education and Counseling webpage. He is a contributing writer to the LC Journal for Social Justice.