Opening the door to change: Microaggressions on College Campuses

Jerrimiah D. Turner

University of St. Thomas

Purpose of Study

According to Sue (2010), microaggressions are short everyday slights, insults, indignities

and derogatory messages sent to people who are unaware of hidden messages. These messages

may occur verbally, nonverbally, or within different communities. Microaggressions has become

a topic of interest in higher education, and in our everyday life. The purpose of this study is to

measure student leaders’ on-campus experience with microaggressions, and investigate the

effects caused by microaggressions. Most students today have encountered some sort of

microaggressions throughout their time at their undergraduate institution; however, students are

not educated on this topic; which makes it difficult to decrease microaggressions in higher

education. The term microaggressions can be misleading, which is why students may not be

knowledgeable of the effects, and how microaggressions are putting a negative effect on college

communities. The overall goal is to help students reflect upon their experience with

microaggressions, and educate those who are not aware of microaggressions.

Description of the Problem

Microaggressions are frequently occurring on college campuses due to the curiosity of

student’s identities, which causes their peers to make assumptions, and leads to microaggressions

being committed by peers. Some people do not intentionally commit microaggressions, and often

do not think anything is wrong with committing microaggressions. There are two intentional

definitions of microaggressions. Microaggressions are intentional behaviors or notes that carry

rude or insensitive connotations toward a person’s race, gender, sexual preference, or overall

sense of identity (Sue, 2010). In addition, Microinvalidation is the use of verbal comments or

behaviors that exclude or negate the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experimental reality of a

person. These two term correlate psychological into one, which make up the overall foundation

of microaggression. The common problems in society related to microaggressions are associated

with racial backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and gender disparities. Sue (2010), provides

several examples of microaggressions experienced by college students such as:

 “You’re strong for a girl”.
 “Calling a racial group “them” or generalizing the way a group acts in a negative way”
 “Does she look lesbian to you?”
 “The man sounded like a female”. – (Sue, 2010)
Many of these microaggressions above are utilized among student(s)—who identify as

LGBTQ, minority, or lower socioeconomic status. According to Sue (2010), typically peers, who

identify as Caucasian, often commit microaggressions and this is affecting retention and a lack of

belonging at institutions for minorities. Furthermore, a significant amount of student(s) is not

knowledgeable of microaggressions, and in theory, this may be the reason for microaggressions

occurring frequently on college campuses. Stereotypes and labels are placed on people due to the

social construction of identities such as, race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status found in

society. Some of these stereotypes can associated with gender differences and identity

preferences. Typically, males and females face different types of discrimination. For example, if

a female makes the choice to dress like a male, this can lead to microaggressions being

committed by peers. However, if males are not producing enough masculinity in the traditional

sense, which is how society believes things should be, this person will be classified as LGBTQ

or less than masculine.

Research Questions
1. What is student’s experiences with microaggressions on-campus?
2. What are the after effects of microaggressions?

Context of the Study
The study took place at University of St. Thomas, a Midwestern private institution of

10,500 student(s). A mixture of undergraduate and graduate were surveyed and interviewed,

however, data shows, 64.84% were whites, 14.29% (Black), 6.59 (Asian), 1.10% (Native

American), 7.69 (Multiple Races), 5.49% (Some other race). At this university setting, it was

important and relevant to look at students’ on-campus experiences with microaggressions, as

they are now occurring more frequently.

Review of Relevant Literature

This chapter is a review of literature encompassing the topics of microaggressions in

higher education. The following topics will be addressed throughout the literature review: an

overview of microaggressions, race, mental health, LGBTQ community, and the effects of

discrimination on college campuses. Due to a broad scope of literature related to

microaggressions, this review would focus specifically on microaggressions as experienced in

higher education. Within college institutions, student demographics are changing rapidly in

higher education. The way society reacts to change varies on a case-by-case basis. Often times

change is not ideal. In todays’ society, the term diversity has existed on campuses, but there is an

honest question as to do students know what it means to be diverse? Society reacts to changes

and social pressures by referring to the resources around them, including faculty, departments on

campus, or residence life staff. When students transition into their university institutions, they

naturally realize that other students are different from them. As students observe many racial

backgrounds, sexual preferences, and mental illnesses, they begin to make assumptions or do

they bring these assumptions with them.

Making assumptions can become problematic when two students from different

backgrounds do not share beliefs such as, the same religion or socioeconomic status.

Discrimination is a frequently used term to define when a person does not feel included in a

community. In some cases, people may be called derogatory terms because a lack of

understanding of another’s culture or other social identities. As years have progressed, a new

term has been introduced to society and this term is microaggression. Most individuals in society

would say microaggressions and discrimination correlate in many ways. However, before

attempting to educate society on the term microaggressions. It is important to develop a deeper

knowledge and appreciation of diversity. The purpose of this study is to understand student’s

experiences, including the negative effects of microaggressions, and inform students of how

microaggressions affects the overall transition od students on-campus.

8Overview of Microaggression

According to Sue (2008), a microassault is a blatant verbal, nonverbal, or environmental

attack made by a person to convey prejudiced opinions. For example, terms such as retard, spic,

chink, etc. are microassaults. In a work environment, only hiring men or only hiring women for

higher-up positions would be considered a microassult. In a restaurant, serving a certain group

of individuals last or sitting a group of people in a very secluded area even when other spots are

open would be a microassault. Although these examples of microaggressions are blatant, they

could be committed even when a person does not know that the actions are offensive. Some

people could also fall victim to microassults and not know that the terms exist. Microassults are

more visible in nature. Microinsults are subliminal.


Sue (2008) states that Microinsults are unintentional behaviors or notes that carry rude or

insensitive connotations toward a person’s race, gender, religion, sexual preference, or overall

sense of identity. Despite the hidden aspect of microinsults, the message is hurtful. An example

of a microinsult would be Arnold Schwarzenegger calling his democratic opponents “girly men”.

Although his intentions were to belittle or make fun of democrats, he also hinted that a woman

and man who have feminine traits are feeble or unsuccessful (Sue, 2008). A person could also

use a microinsult in a way that is very similar to a positive stereotype. For example, I have seen

a person meet a member of the LGBTQ community who was confused by their outer appearance.

They have said, “I have to admit, you don’t look gay”. By saying this, the person did not mean

to be offensive, but he still had preconceived notions that a member of the LGBTQ community

stereotypically have a certain traits.


A microinvalidation is characterized by verbal comments or behaviors that exclude or negate the

psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person (Sue, 2008). This form of

microaggression could also be unintentional. I have experienced this microaggression multiple times.

For example, one of my former residents told me that he was not racist because he had other black

friends. I have also heard someone say to an international that their grammar is very good English to be

an immigrant. While taking into consideration the three types of microagressions, we must understand

these can happen at the same time. Microaggressions can also find their way onto the college campus.

Having a student development theory framework can help with troubleshooting the issues behind


Racial Microaggressions in Residence Halls

At predominantly white institutions (PWI), diversity has increased with the motive to

provide students of color with greater access to higher education. Research displays that African-

Americans tend to develop a different on-campus experience versus their white counterparts.

According to Harwood, Huntt, Mendenhall, & Lewis (2012) students of color have reported both

subtle and explicit forms of racism at predominately-white institutions. Most of racial

interactions in the African-American community occurs within the residence halls on campus.

These encounters result in students feeling unsupported far as feeling underprepared

academically, which can result in students performing poorly, and most importantly a lack of

belonging at the university can have an impact on the student.

The above researchers found some benefits to on-campus living for all students: the

convenience and affordability of living on campus: the support of residence life staff: the

acceptance of the community: and the social connection with other undergraduate students

(Harwood et al, 2012). In their methodology, they conducted a focus group with undergraduate

male students in residence halls, and most importantly involved the resident assistants in the

community. However, their research concluded that students perceived the racial climate of

residence halls differently depending on their culture group. During the data collection process,

students revealed that staff were not fair or consistent, when attempting to accommodate all


When incorporating the residence life staff in the study, they found that Resident

Assistants encountered several forms of microaggression during the on-campus living

involvement and found that African American men reported experiencing racist stereotypes and

racial microaggressions from white supervisors and Whites peers among residence halls. Within

this study, Resident Assistants reported Caucasian supervisors being incompetent or

unknowledgeable based on the way African-Americans dressed or being perceived as threatening

by White peers. Supervisors were not upholding the leadership skills needed to provide to other

live-in staff, which resulted in lack of understanding of how to prevent racial microaggressions

and educate our student for the future. With supervisors, not being in compliance for modeling

“effective leaderships” resulted in a dysfunctional community, which often involved creating

racial “cliques”. The results, also demonstrate that two types of microaggressions were

frequently used such as: “Microassaults, which is aimed to hurting someone)” and “Microinsults

which displays subtly demeaning snubs or dismissive looks (Harwood, Huntt, Mendenhall, &

Lewis, 2012, p. 164). Below are some identified statements used by White Americans on-


 “You are going to steal, because you are come from a low socioeconomic household”.
 “People of color are deviant”.
 “You are an outsider / you don’t exist”.
 “Leave your cultural baggage outside”. (as cited by Harwood, Huntt, Mendenhall, & Lewis,
Men and Women Racism On-Campus

Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso (2000) conducted a similar qualitative study, which focused on

the racial climate and experiences of African-American college students. The authors used a

focus-group research design to illustrate in detail how African Americans were impacted. The

study referred to microaggressions within social spaces on campus. Within this study, authors

applies the critical race theory, which draws from and extends a broad literature base, sociology,

and ethnic studies. This study involved more participants by including both male and female

students – and three predominately white institutions (two public and one private) (Solórzano,

Ceja, & Yosso, 2000). In addition, 18 females and 16 females participated in 10 focus groups,

which provided more data.

The data shows that most racial microaggressions occur within academic spaces such as:

classrooms, bathrooms, and other campus buildings. According to the study, students reported

that White Americans stated offensive terms, when referring to socioeconomic status. In

addition, students also shared that their experiences as African Americans were omitted,

distorted, and stereotyped in their course curriculum. For example, a female student mentioned

white students were not knowledgeable of racism, and very little have been “victims” which

created a lack of understanding. The data also demonstrated that most microaggressions start

with parents’ attitudes and behaviors in the Caucasian community, which causes their children to

commit microaggressions when entering higher education. Both studies are similar in many

ways, but both authors provided another perspective by involving females in the focus group.

Based on the above studies, results show that racism is frequently happening on predominately-

white campuses.

Sexual Orientation Microaggressions

Nadal, Issa, Meterko, Wideman, & Wong (2011) the authors conducted a qualitative

study, which addresses the types of sexual orientation microaggressions individuals experience

in their everyday lives. Within this study, authors chose to gather data by creating a focus group,

which included males and females. The different types of microaggressions were broken into

eight themes. According to the authors, participants described certain words used to identify

LGBTQ students referring as, “faggot” and “dyke”. For example, a gay male shared:

“I recently opened up to my friend about [being gay] and he’s a guy and just the other day I was

at his house and were talking about other people and he would describe them as like, “faggot,” and

it would get to me” (Nadal, Issa, Meterko, Wideman, & Wong 2011, p. 243).

Students also reported that their peers also developed preconceived notions about

students who represent the LGBT community are likely to be classified as sexual predators. In

addition, student reported that some of their peers categorized them by mentioning all LGBT

students are likely to receive HIV/AIDS due to unprotected sex (p. 250). Based on the

microaggression committed, researchers were able to find that LGB students experienced higher

rates of emotional distress, higher amounts of suicide attempts, risky sexual behavior, and

substance abuse. In some cases, students reported that campus peers engaged in bullying.

Research show that microaggressions delay the identity development process for students. For

example, if adolescences experience microaggressions they are more likely to “deny” their

identity, and possible internalize that LGBTQ members are considered abnormal (Nadal, Issa,

Meterko, Wideman, & Wong, p. 253). Overall, this study is very relevant in higher education,

and it educates our students to be inclusive in communities.

Microaggressions among Graduate Students

Gomez, Khurshid, Freitag, & Lachuk (2011) address how teacher assistants experience

and respond to microaggressions at predominately-white institutions. Researchers thought it

would be beneficial to conduct interviews to gain an understanding of experiences. The study

included the African-American and international community to receive a variety of experiences.

According to Gomez, Khurshid, Freitag, & Lachuk (2011), due to the racial microaggression it

hindered graduate/teaching assistants’ plans of becoming educators because they were criticized.

According to the study, graduate teaching assistants reported many challenges in

supervision with White teachers, and their way ability to accept constructive feedback from

international and Black students. Students representing the African American community says,

they felt as if they needed to defend themselves, because they were not perceived as US citizens.

Within international teaching assistant population, studies show that White students did not view

their teaching as effective, as from someone who share the same identity.

As a result, research displays that graduate teaching assistants admitted their interest of

returning to their hometowns and countries, where people were inclusive among differences

within the communities. In addition, this study was able to investigate the effects of

microaggressions; many teaching assistants felt like their opinions did not matter, and it affected

the way their job responsibilities were performed. As teaching assistants who identify as

minority do not feel a sense of belonging at some college institutions, and it has an impact on

how they perform in their positons.

Description of Interviews

Within my interviews, I chose to interview two male students in higher education. I chose

to interview Shan Sharif, as he recently shared a situation where, he experienced

microaggressions against his culture. Furthermore, I thought it would be interesting and reliable

to get a male—who identifies as Caucasian, as it gives his prospective of being a privilege male

on a predominately-white campus. Far as my second interviewee, I was intentional about seeking

out another individual—who identifies as another race. Drew Spriggs—who identifies as an

African-American male and a member of the LGBTQ community, decided to show interest in

helping out within my study. I chose Drew Spriggs because he gave me another perspective.

Spriggs falls under the underrepresented population of African-American gay men, and more

importantly a lower-socioeconomic status household.

For data collection #2, I utilized the semi-structured/informal method while interviewing.

Prior to the interviews, I proactively created “open-ended” questions prior to the interviews. The

interviews felt more like conversations rather than formal interviews. Taking this approach made

my interviews more effective, as it gave me the ability to go in-depth with interviewees. I let the

questions come naturally and made notes as both interviewees talked about their experiences

with microaggressions in higher education. During interview #1, I asked, “what has been your

experience with microaggressions” and “does microaggressions appear to be intentional”. For the

second interview, I used the same approach: unstructured/informal, as it creates a more solid

analysis. I asked the same questions from data #1. My questions were framed in an open-ended

fashion, and it gave interviewees the opportunity to elaborate on their experiences more. By

incorporating this in both interviews, I delved into the interviewees’ experiences with

microaggressions, as well as how it may have affected their mindset.

Methods Used to Analyze Interviews

My method used to analyze while transcribing interviews. I looked for an overlap in

language, segments in which interviewees sounded particularly passionate and articulate,

segments in which interviewees sounded very confident and clear, as well as key phrasing and

similar behavior patterns. To do this, I made physical notes in a notebook or add observer

comments, and observing patterns was my primary method.


I drew several conclusions from these interviewees. Both interviewees used the words

“educate”, “unintentional”, “comfort-level” and “language”. The interviewees were very

passionate when discussing microaggressions. However, both did seem very emotional from

being victims of microaggressions on college campuses. Within both interviews, Shan and Drew

expressed their ability to educate their peers on microaggressions. However, they did mention

approaching people has disadvantages, as others may become aggressive compared to others. In

addition, both interviewees talked about maintaining an acceptable comfort-level, as it could be a

positive outcome for our peers, and most importantly, people will learn from their mistakes.

Furthermore, another conclusion drew from interviews—both men shared that they do not think

microaggressions are intentional in higher education, as it comes off as the person feeling

curious to learn more about the individual. Finally, derogatory language of the person can

sometimes result in an individual feeling attacked.

Description of Methods
For data collection #1—I gather all information from completing the survey option for

determining the different types of microaggressions student(s) are experiencing on college

campuses. Within the data collection, I asked a total of fourteen “closed-ended” questions—

which the answer choices includes “yes” or “no” answers. One-hundred and six students

participated in the online survey. Of the one-hundred and eight participants, 42 (46.67%) males

and 49 (53.85%) females completed all fourteen questions. The study asked participants about

their racial background, which was broken down into seven categories such as African-

American, Caucasian, American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Multiple Races, and some

other race (specify). The racial demographics showed that:

1. White: 59 participants – 64.84%

2. Black: 13 participants- 14.29%

3. American Indian: 0 participants- 0%

4. Asian: 6 – 6.59%

5. Native Hawaiian: 1 – 1.10%

6. Multiple Races: 7 – 7.69%

7. Some other Race: 5 – 5.49%

Within my sample, I opposed the question requesting student(s) grade level. Overall, I was

surprised with the responses from each of the categories. The categories consisted of freshmen

(7/7.69%), sophomore (11/12.09), Junior (20/21.98%), Senior (20/21.98%), and (Graduate

Students (31/34.07%). The results were interesting, as the junior and senior population came to a

“tie”. For my data collection #2, I will be conducting two interviews, which will involve “open-

ended” questions to determine participant’s experiences with microaggressions on college

campuses. The two interviews were recruited from my data collection #1—both students showed

interest in participating within the study.

Description of Implementation

I implemented the survey by uploading to SurveyMonkey – which gave me the

opportunity to remain paperless, and to be more accommodating to participants. When the online

survey was created, I sent the link to student leaders –whom work at Tommie Central at the

University of St. Thomas-St. Paul. I requested for their participation in the study, however,

before students were able to participate. Students read a “disclaimer” summarizing that no

identifying information will be asked – and all information will be used within the study. Before

beginning, student(s) had the option to:

1. I participate in this study – 108/99.08%

2. I do not wish to participate in this study- 1/0.92%

According to Survey Monkey, One-hundred and eight (99.08%) participants agreed to go

forward with the study. Although, one participant (0.92%) declined the opportunity to

partake in the microaggressions study. At the last minute, I wanted to receive more

participants. I uploaded my online survey link to Facebook into a “Student Affairs Group”

which has a tremendous amount of graduate students involved. From there, my response rate

increased within a two hours duration totaling to one-hundred and six participants. In

addition, I wanted to expand on the number of first-year students in my residence hall on-

campus (Brady Hall). I was able to send a “mass” email requesting for their participation.

Brady Hall is a first-year all-male residence hall, which in my opinion increased the number

of male participants.

Data Results

While analyzing the results, I begin the survey by providing a brief synopsis of


1. According to Sue and Riviera (2010) microaggressions are short everyday slights,

insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people in general that are unaware

of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally,

nonverbally or throughout the community (Sue and Riviera, 2012). Examples of

microaggressions are usually outside the level of awareness of perceptions (i.e. a woman

clinching onto her purse as a group of black men walk down a hallway or telling a

member of the LGBTQ community that they don't look gay). Before reading the brief

synopsis, did you know what a microaggression is?

a. Yes: 69/76.67%

b. No: 21/23.33%

2. How often do you see microaggressions play out within your university?

a. 2-3 times a week: 36/41.38%

b. Once a week: 34/39.08

c. Once a month: 8/9.20%

d. Once a semester: 4/4.60%

e. Once a year: 5/5.75%

3. I feel there needs to be more resources that are educational for our students on


a. Strongly Disagree: 2/2.27%

b. Disagree: 5/5.68%

c. Neutral: 15/17.05%

d. Agree: 40/45.45%

e. Strongly Agree: 26/29.55%

4. Microaggressions has changed the way I view society.

a. Yes: 52/58.43%

b. No: 37/41.57%

5. I have committed a form of microaggression throughout my collegiate experience.

a. Yes: 73/82.02%

b. No: 16/17.98%

6. I feel comfortable addressing the issue(s) behind microaggressions. For example, if

someone were to use a microaggression, you would feel comfortable confronting the

issue head on or pulling the person(s) aside.

a. Yes: 58/64.44%

b. No: 32/35.56%

7. I feel comfortable educating my peers/students on microaggressions. For example,

facilitating an educational dialogue with peers and students on the issue.

a. Yes: 65/72.22%

b. No: 25/27.78%

8. What microaggressions are you likely to hear on-campus?

a. Racial microaggressions: 46/51.11%

b. LBTQ microaggressions: 19/21.11%

c. Socioeconomic microaggressions: 15/16.67%

d. Mental Health microaggressions: 7/7.78%

e. None of the above: 3/3.33%

9. I believe microaggressions are intended to hurt people's feelings.

a. Yes: 20/22.73%

b. No: 68/77.27%


Based on the survey results, 23 participants did not know what microaggressions were in

society. Although, it makes sense of why students are committing microaggressions, because

they are not knowledgeable of the topic. Furthermore, most student(s) indicate that

microaggressions have changed the way society is viewed. However, it becomes a contradiction

due to 77% of the student’s response to question fourteen. The question says, microagressions is

intended to hurt people’s feelings, and 77.27% answered “no”. If microaggressions is not

intended to hurt people—then why should society be educated on microaggressions? In addition,

why are people willing to address people that are committing microaggressions, if they are not

intended to hurt one another? Another interesting fact, some participants skipped some of

questions asked within the survey. It is interesting wondering, what is the reason behind

student(s) purpose for not answering all the questions. Although, it does raise curiosity rather if

the questions apply to the student or not.

Discussion of the Strengths and Limitations of the Study

During the next study on microaggressions at predominately-white institutions, more

students from different backgrounds need to be interviewed as a limitation in this study. Due to

limited time, only two students were interviewed. Furthermore, it would be beneficial if this

study consisted of a “focus” group that way, different perspectives are presented among the


Actions/Changes Anticipated as a Result of the Study

Because of the study, university officials and staff must come up with strategies to improve the

use of microaggressions. By improving, this may include, educating our faculty/staff on this

trending topic. Furthermore, due to results, this may affect the campus environment, as student(s)

may feel—microaggressions are not intentional to harm theirs peers. However, for student(s)

who fall under the underrepresented population may disagree, causing things to become

problematic on the campus. In addition, administrators must become better at addressing the

problem immediately and most importantly stop admitting every problem needs to resolved by

implementing training.

Future Recommendations

In this study, I would like to make recommendations to the following populations such

as, student(s), Parents, and Administrators. According to results, students must be willing to

engage with their peers, as many share different identities. In addition, parents must be aware of

their words, as students(s) tend to be a reflection of their parents—and it sometimes show their

ability/inability to work with other people who are different from themselves. Most importantly,

administration must be more effective—when addressing the issues dealing with

microaggressions on-campus. What I mean by effectiveness, university officials must be able to

take ownership for their actions, as it give them the ability to evaluate the current problems

affecting minorities’ on-campus. Furthermore, administration must also realize that “educating”,

“talking circles”, “faculty training” is not changing the university. Instead, we need Caucasian

individuals to admit their biases of addressing microaggressions on-campus, as it will serve the

college campuses better.

Appendix A- In-Person Interview Questions

1. What has been your experience with microaggressions?

2. Do you think microaggressions are intentional, why or why not?

3. What are possible ways to prevent microaggressions?

4. What types of microaggressions do you typically hear on a regular basis?

5. How do you handle microaggressions, as your peers commit them?

6. Have you committed a microaggression before? If so, what types of microaggression?

7. Do you feel comfortable educating your peers on microaggressions? Why or Why not?

8. Anything else you would like to add?

Appendix B – Transcript of Drew Spriggs

Jerrimiah: Okay, so thank you, Drew, for taking the time to interview with Green today. I
just want to ask you a few question regarding microaggressions and we can go ahead and get
started. Are you ready?

Drew: Yup.

Jerrimiah: Okay, so has been your experience with microaggressions?

Drew: Overall, I've had quite a varying experience with microaggressions. I admit
myself that I wasn't really aware of microaggressions in my undergrad. In some
parts I probably used them and I probably didn't even know that I used
microaggressions back then. Then I went to Indiana State. I've heard of people
using microaggressions, I knew in my gut that some of the things they were using
microaggressions wasn't really right until I did further research with my capstone.
It was Alex, my area coordinator who introduced the idea of doing research on
microaggressions and asking people questions about them for my capstone. It was
during my research on microaggressions and asking people about them that I've
gotten to know about microaggressions. Let's take a moment and rewind back to
my undergrad. I've done a few bits and pieces of research on hate speech in
general, but I didn't really focus on microaggressions. Through my research in
grad school, I've learned a lot about them and when I did more research I thought
back and like, "wait a minute, a lot of people used microaggressions and I didn't
even know it." I knew there was something going on about the use of
microaggressions, but I didn't know how to really point a finger on the use of
them, but it was after formal research that I really got accustomed to knowing
about microaggressions, to knowing the nature of them.

Now that I've gotten an understanding of them, I've found that microaggressions
could be very offensive. They could be very offensive to those who they're used
against, even if it's a person who uses these microaggressions without even
knowing. I was after I did research on microaggressions that I've gotten to know
what they truly are.

Jerrimiah: Awesome, thank you. So my next question is do you think microaggressions are
intentional, why or why not?

Drew: I think microaggressions aren't really intentional. If somebody knows that they're
saying something that is offensive, then it's not really microaggressions. It's just
an aggressive form of hate speech. I think if people say something and they don't
really know that it's a microaggressions, there's not really an intentional matter,
but when somebody's like, "wait a minute, this kind of offends me," then a person
would kind of take a step back, re-prioritize and maybe learn from it. Do I think
the use of microaggressions is intentional? Not really because the person who
uses these microaggressions are probably not aware of it. It's just until somebody

says is, "okay what you have said is very offensive." Sometimes person who is on
the receiving end of microaggressions probably does not know or maybe they do
know, but when they get offended by microaggressions, they just choose not to
say anything until it becomes a repetitive issue and then they say something.

Jerrimiah: My next question is, what are possible ways to prevent microaggressions?

Drew: The best way to prevent microaggressions is to educate people. Do some research,
as a few people who have done research on microaggressions. Maybe it's
somebody from an office of diversity, an office of affirmative action, maybe you
could got GSRC's you know the gender sexual resource centers on campus. I wish
there was a few more out there. The best way to educate is to just have formal
conversations, have some programs for the resident’s halls and also know the
effects of microaggressions. It's one thing to say, "Okay using microaggressions is
really bad," but it's crucial to tell people why it is bad. If you're just saying, "okay
don't use microaggressions." They're like, "okay." Sort of just blocks it out, but if
you really get to the core of the why, people will not only understand what a
microaggressions is but they are going to fully understand why they are offensive.
In some cases it could... it starts a chain reaction really.

It could be of one of two ways. If you were to have one on one conversation, pull
them into a private setting and then ask those probing questions about what they
have said, and then explain to them what a microaggressions is, it could work. If
you go onto a campus it's September, October, maybe the first part of November
and you're going to have an educational program with many people about
microaggressions, there's probably going to be some kind of disconnect because
when you go onto a college campus especially when it comes to first year
students, they're still trying to adapt. They are still trying to adjust to a situation
because they spent so much time in a place where they see the same things. They
see the same people and they are accustomed to many things that they have just
seen within their lives, then when they go to college, they see people who are
different than them. If you do some kind of education program with in the spring,
people are more open to learning about microaggressions because they are already
a little bit acclimated to the new surroundings. Educating people one on one or by
the masses could work. It could very well work, it's just how you do it.

Jerrimiah: Great, thank you. What types of microaggressions do you typically hear on a
regular basis?

Drew: Usually I would hear some of the micro-invalidations. Micro-invalidations are the
ones where they are trying to negate something that is a stereotype. For example, I
have heard somebody say, "oh you don't really look like or act like any of my gay
friends." So what does a typical person who is homosexual act like? What are
some of the mannerism? It is usually the micro-invalidations, but out there, you
have micro-insults and micro-assaults. Maybe it is somebody who comes on the
elevator with a black male and maybe the other person is a white woman. The

white woman might clench onto her purse because subliminally they don't want
their things to get stolen. I haven't seen that many instances here on [SUNY
Oneonta], but I have definitely heard some verbal microaggressions, you know
the invalidations or micro-insults.

Jerrimiah: Great, thank you. How do you handle microaggressions as others commit them?

Drew: I personally like the one on one kind of thing. Just giving people feedback in a
way that is meaningful, a way that is professional is extremely important, because
number 1, I want both of us to learn about each other, number 2: I don't want
them to shut down and just not talk to anybody. You know, put their head in the
sand. That's how people get shot down and then they're going to feel like not
many people appreciate who they are when, in fact, we're just trying to make an
experience better. This is how I would handle the use of a microaggression. If I
personally know the person, like I'm on talking terms and I know a person- like
it's all italicized know- I would shoot them a text or I would shoot them an email
and I would say, "look, I think it would be beneficial if we spoke about something
and I think it would be good to do it in person." So I go on my email and I would
schedule a meeting.

If I were to meet them in my office, sometimes they're like, "oh my god. I'm in
trouble." Or sometimes I'll go to some place like our college camp and
somewhere that's almost in the middle of nowhere and it has a lot of nature paths.
It has a lot scenery, the only place of conflict that you would go on campus to see
is 2 squirrels fighting over a nut. That place would be a good setting to talk about
microaggressions because there's not many people around, and it's calming, and
it's in a neutral environment. That is how a person would open up, and the person
who's having the conversation would open up. If it's in a resident's hall or if it's in
a residents room, that's probably not going to work because there's no neutrality
and there's very little to no privacy. It's either one of two things. It's either I have
the conversation with them in my office and its planned or I just break the ice and
I go take a hike with that person. I go someplace where it's very, very calm

Jerrimiah: Good, thank you. Have you committed a microaggression before? If so, what
types of microaggressions?

Drew: I admit it, I personally have committed a microaggression, and this is back when I
was in undergrad. Back then I didn't know I had committed one, and it was a
micro-invalidation. It was back when I was a senior working as an RA, and there
was somebody within the LGBTQ and I had no idea that they were a part of it
because, honestly I haven't really interacted with the person. I had not really said
anything. I may have said, "Hey how are you doing?" In passing, but that was
about it, but I acknowledged it. I made the mistake of saying, "you don't really
come off as somebody who is gay." That is a micro-invalidation. It wasn't
anything that came off- I didn't want to come off hurtful, but looking back at the

research I did, looking at some of the other microaggressions people have heard, I
come to realize that I myself have said a microaggression.

Jerrimiah: Awesome, thank you. In addition, do you feel comfortable educating your peers
on microaggressions? Why or why not?

Drew: Great question. At this point, I do feel comfortable educating people on
microaggressions. This goes back to how I do it. I could do it by the masses. I'd
feel more comfortable educating RA's. The reason why I feel comfortable
educating RA's a little bit more is because they're the ones who have
autonomously made the decisions to be leaders of this campus and improve the
living situations of people. I could be a little more uncomfortable with people who
are not RA's, people who are just students who are living within the resident's
halls. They do not have leadership roles. They're not in Fraternities or Sororities
or any of that other stuff, but if a student who is not really have any leadership
roles and I'm talking to them one on one, I'd feel comfortable. It is all about the
timing of when I am educating them. I would not really feel comfortable
educating them on the fly. I personally would need to prepare myself to educate
them because number 1, what if the message goes in one ear and out the other?
What if they accept the message but the way they accept it comes off very
abrasive or very passive. I just look out for all those little outliers. If I do it on the
fly, of course the end result would probably not be that good, but if it's
somewhere in a controlled environment where it's a little bit peaceful, I would
feel comfortable.

Jerrimiah: Great, and finally, I just want to ask do you have anything else you would like to

Drew: Yes. When it comes to microaggressions, educating people on microaggressions,
or even getting ourselves more knowledgeable about them, it takes time. You
cannot just put on an in-service for 30 minutes or you can't just have a 15
conversation about microaggressions and expect somebody to fully understand it.
Our community is in a constant state of flux. Things are constantly changing, and
when things are changing, not many people would know about that change until
their educated about it, so microaggressions in general are anything that involves
social justice topics, diversity in general is something that you really cannot rush.
It is important to take your time, because if you rush through the message: in one
ear and out the other. Passives, it gets really abrasive. Stuff would blow up.
People would get angry, and then their desire to learn and sometimes the desire to
teach about microaggressions would diminish.

Jerrimiah: Great, thank you so much for interviewing with me. I hope you have a great day.

Appendix C – Shan Sharif

Jerrimiah: Thank you, Shan. I just wanted to interview you regarding microaggressions, and
I want to ask you a number of different questions, and I want you to answer them to the best of
your ability

Shan: Okay.

Jerrimiah: Starting off, I want to ask what has been your experience with

Shan: I've had quite a bit of different experience, unfortunately, from being
called a "Sand Nigger" on numerous occasions to being told I was a
terrorist or being told I don't belong in this country because I am Muslim,
even though I was born in the States. It's been all over the place. I've dealt
with snide comments from family, not necessarily immediate family, but
relatives. Then I've dealt with comments from coworkers, classmates, and
a lot of different situations. I've pretty much run into the gambit of it.

Jerrimiah: Great. Have you experienced any on campus here?

Shan: I have on campuses, quite a few different campuses, from having a group
of other Somali students state that my faith was not part of Islam, and it
was a group of about 12 to 15, if I remember correctly. I cannot remember
the exact number. They surrounded me at one point and said I wasn't
Muslim, and it was more of a very uncomfortable situation and very, very
hostile, in terms of the possibility of me getting my butt kicked was right
on the edge. Yeah, I have been called "Sand Nigger" right on campus. The
option of me confronting it or continuing to just keep moving on was right
there. It is what it is. I had to keep ... I have to deal with it. Otherwise, I
am going to get into that physical confrontation and someone's going to
jail at that point.

Jerrimiah: Great. Great. My next question is do you think microaggressions are
intentional? Why or why not?

Shan: Quite often they are not, I think, in terms of an individual doesn't
necessarily know any better, but there are many times where they are very
intentionally done. It's just a matter of, quite a bit of it is just the context of
it. Was it done out of ignorance or was it done out of spite?

Jerrimiah: Great. What are possible ways to prevent microaggressions?

Shan: Big part that I think is one is training and teaching and learning about the
different cultures. I mean, you can look back at the Holocaust, the
situations that were at the time there, it was an ignorant time for the
Jewish community in Germany, just as an example. Afterwards, it became
very much institutionalized that they had very systematic knowledge and
learning of that particular faith and group so that that did not happen
again, even though that's not necessarily done about all groups,

Jerrimiah: Great, thank you. What types of microaggressions do you typically hear
on a regular basis?

Shan: That all Muslims want Sharia Law. That is probably one of the more
common ones, or "all Muslims are terrorists." It is just a lot of
generalizations in most cases that all of the particular group are something,
and it is never, ever the case. Yeah.

Jerrimiah: Great. How do you handle microaggressions as others commit them?

Shan: I have to treat it as a case-by-case basis, unfortunately. In some instances,
I will try to engage that particular person in a conversation and try to teach
them and show them where their ignorance lies. Some cases, I will just be
very blunt in saying, "That was uncalled for," and move on with it. Some
cases, it is a matter of just moving on. There is nothing you can do in some
cases, unfortunately, to create any kind of positive outcome, unfortunately.

Jerrimiah: Great. My next question is have you committed a microaggression before?
If so, what types of microaggressions have you shared among anywhere?

Shan: I am sure I have. Most would be typically unintentional. Most of the time,
I think, if I have, it has not been out of malice; it has been out of ignorance
myself. I try to avoid that to a great extent, but you can't necessarily know
everything about every particular population. For a great time, I assumed
that all Somalis were very ignorant and hostile toward other Muslims of
not their particular denomination, for lack of a better word. I met another
Somali student that was similarly treated as I was because of different
circumstances but similar situation. That opened my eyes to a great extent.
I try not to assume about a general population. I try to look at it as a
particular sect, a smaller group of individuals or similar ... Does that make

Jerrimiah: Mm-hmm

Shan: Okay.

Jerrimiah: Great. Do you feel comfortable educating your peers on
microaggressions? Why or why not?

Shan: For the most part, yes, and no. Yes because about my own particular
instances with it, I can speak very personally to it, which helps draw more
attention, where with other areas, I'm not as familiar or don't necessarily
understand the impact, so it's hard to be able to speak to those particular

Jerrimiah: Great. Anything else you would like to add?

Shan: No, not that I can think of. I think microaggressions tend to very easily
turn into bigger problems and can very easily shift into macroaggressions
as well.

Jerrimiah: Great. How do you respond to students regarding microaggressions that
they are experiencing?

Shan: Another student?

Jerrimiah: Yes.

Shan: If they are experiencing it, correct?

Jerrimiah: Yes.

Shan: Quite often, I will try to understand what that particular student is feeling
and try to educate them that it's often not about themselves that they're
experiencing that situation. It's about that particular individual, and it's
very hard to separate the two, unfortunately.

You really have to be able to take that step back, which is very hard and
emotional in the moment. Speaking to it, it's easy when you're not in that
particular moment, but when you recently deal with it, or you just had that
experience, you just have to step back and sometimes go, "Yup, screw
them," and keep going with your day, and find something else positive
about something else going on in your life, really.

Jerrimiah: Great, and a follow-up question: I know you mentioned a lot about
religious microaggressions. What other microaggressions have you
actually experienced or actually heard on campus, or anywhere throughout
the United States?

Shan: Quite often, it is ones that I'm more relevant to are the ones of immigrants,
assuming all of a particular group of immigrants is illegal or whatever
else. In addition, another instance is I was down visiting my cousins and

we had gone and picked up her son from daycare. He commented that I
can't be his cousin because I'm too white, and all of my cousins are brown
on that side of the family. It's one of those of he didn't know any better
because he was five or six, and you have to just laugh it off and educate
him at that point, because that's a great learning opportunity for him. Its
things like that where it is just ... Yeah. Does that make sense?

Jerrimiah: Yes.

Shan: Okay.

Jerrimiah: Definitely. Well, I think that is all that I actually have for you today. If you
do not have anything else to add, we can go ahead and call this meeting to
an end.

Shan: Yeah, no, that is good.

Jerrimiah: Great, thank you.

Appendix D – Survey Questions
1. Please choose the following:
2. Do you identify as male or female?
3. Are you White, Black, or Indian or Alaskan, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander,
or some other race.
4. What is your class standing?
5. What is your sexual orientation?

6. According to Sue and Riviera (2010) microaggressions are short everyday slights, insults,
indignities and denigrating messages sent to people in general that are unaware of the
hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally,
nonverbally or throughout the community (Sue and Riviera, 2012). Examples of
microaggressions are usually outside the level of awareness of perceptions (i.e. a woman
clinching onto her purse as a group of black men walk down a hallway or telling a
member of the LGBTQ community that they don't look gay). Before reading the brief
synopsis, did you know what a microaggression is?
7. How often do you see microaggressions play out within your university?
8. I feel there needs to be more resources that are educational for our students on
9. Microaggressions has changed the way I view society.
10. I have committed a form of microaggression throughout my collegiate experience.
11. I feel comfortable addressing the issue(s) behind microaggressions. For example, if
someone were to use a microaggression, you would feel comfortable confronting the
issue head on or pulling the person(s) aside.
12. I feel comfortable educating my peers/students on microaggressions. For example,
facilitating an educational dialogue with peers and students on the issue.
13. What microaggressions are you likely to hear on-campus?
14. I believe microaggressions are intended to hurt people's feelings.

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Nadal, K. L., Issa, M. A., Leon, J., Meterko, V., Wideman, M., & Wong, Y. (2011). Sexual

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