Early Childhood Studies – a Global Perspective

Exploring the concepts on early childhood studies through the lens of people across the globe

Practicing Awareness of Micro-aggressions

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Micro-aggressions are direct and indirect forms of indignities conveyed through verbal, personal or environmental mediums usually racial-segregation-67788_640targeted towards the minority – women, children, gay/lesbian and peopleof color. It could be presented through micro assault, when a person blatantly insults a person; micro insult, when a person knowingly or unknowingly degrades another; or, micro invalidation, when a person diminishes the feelings of another on issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status.

Tracing the roots of micro-aggression dates back from colonial period where exploitation, violence, and denial of human rights and resources were reinforced by a hierarchical and patriarchal society. It is a discrimination-60512_1280learned behavior that has penetrated into the systems at different levels – institutional, interpersonal and internalized. Exposure to micro-aggression at different levels has permeated into the beliefs and practices of individuals, families and the larger community.
At different levels and forms, micro-aggression can be witnessed in our daily lives. In the adult world, being a Southeast Asian and a woman, I have always been a target of derogatory remarks that even my Western friends would unconsciously mention. I remember a male American colleague who married a Lao woman. Most often, even in front of the wife, he would complain about how ‘typical’ Southeast Asian women would choose to marry Westerners for financial comfort. I would remind him right away that I am a Southeast Asian woman who is independent and had never depended on anybody to raise west-923075_1280my child. As well, I would remind him how insulting and hurting his remarks could be for his wife. He thought his wife does not understand a lot of what he says, so he could make any comments he wants. There have been numerous conversations trying to understand why he thinks the way he does and constant explanations as well about stereotyping and insulting women of color. Many times, I would give him examples of a counter practice to make him see that people are different and whatever predicaments they are in, cannot be judged by the naked eye. Another instance was a friend who went on holiday with me to an island in my home country. She observed how many older Western men go for a holiday with very young local women. So she would tease me, “Do you want to find a partner? You could be a mail order bride?” For her, it was a comment to inject an element fun in our conversation, but it was an insult for me as well. Without being upset, I started a conversation about the different reasons why these women could be in the situation they are in as well as questioning why these Western men go after the young girls from Asia. Scrutinizing the issues behind these people make people like my friend become thoughtful of what they say.
In the world of children, they adopt the perceptions that they witness in their environment, from the people around them, from the relationships of which they are a part. One instance was witnessed in a playground when children aged four to six years old were playing together. An East Asian girl came up to me in tears and said, “The girls didn’t want to play with me because they said, “their game is only for blonde girls”. chess-145184_1280Another recent experience that I witnessed was a five-year old girl remarked, “I don’t want to sit next to a boy” after the seating position on the carpet was rearranged. Both these situations were teaching moments to capture the children’s thinking and help them reflect on the message conveyed in their words and how it could affect others. It took and will take many opportunities to help the children relearn the acquired biases and prejudices and becoming aware of these is the starting point.
Micro-aggressions take place anytime, anywhere. It is when we do not let these moments slip by and continue to be vigilant so that people will become aware of the indignities that they commit can we slowly combat the long standing culture of oppression. If there could be anythingstop-1001080_1280 early childhood educators can contribute to this battle is to be the frontrunners of advocating for a bias, prejudice and stereotype free society in different and creative ways they could affect the children in their programs.

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Author: pamcee70

My name is Pam Castillo. I have been in the field of education for 24 years now. Although I have taught some levels in grade school, I have spent most of my years teaching children aged two to six years old. I am always amazed by the interactions I have every day with children. In an environment where children feel safe, they are confident to explore and make discoveries. These experiences prepare them for the bigger challenges in the future. I feel privileged to be a part of the learning journey of these young children especially if they still come to see me and reminisce the years we worked together.

5 thoughts on “Practicing Awareness of Micro-aggressions

  1. Hi Pam,
    I enjoyed your post, I think the way to help correct these annoying infractions are to help others see how degrading they are treating those who are on the receiving end of such disrespect. You were correct to stand up for the wife of your colleague who over speaks concerning women of his wife’s Nationality, shame on him.

    As for the Western men, I really hate that these young women are in this position. I’m willing to bet that they do not have much of a choice but to accommodate these men. I’m also willing to bet that the Western men are doing this because they could not get away with it in the US.
    Keep being strong and encouraging Pam!
    Darlene

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Pam,

    You did such a nice job of explaining exactly what the word microagressions are from the very beginning of your post. You mentioned that microaggessions are learned behaviors whether on purpose or not. I think of all of the racial instances that have occurred across the United States with the police and black Americans. I am always amazed at the comments that people put on social media. Clearly, we have a real issue to solve, but many people think it does not exist. Unfortunately, racial issues are occurring every single day. I think more needs to be done to help professionals in law enforcement understand how to manage personal feelings. People that are racist certainly should not hold positions of power like that.

    -Siera

    Like

  3. I agree with your definitions of microagressions. I cannot believe the many different forms there are of microagressions. I am glad to be in this class learning this content because it will help us during our careers as educators. Good Post…

    Like

  4. Great and powerful post! I like the way you stated how the conversations were changed in great faith without conflict. This is true, before statements are made there should be some type of awareness made moreover some people do not understand different situations among others. At the end, I agree when you stated how children pick up certain things in their environment. Identifying the microaggressions in children and addressing them is very important at this age in life (Pamela, 2015).

    Educational post for teachers
    Kim

    Like

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