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'Healing Racism Series' takes on microaggression

woman holding a sign displaying a "microaggression"
September 02, 2014

They are commonplace, brief and yet they can be extremely powerful and harmful. Microaggressions – the everyday verbal slights and behavioral indignities that communicate “otherness” and that keep the wheels of oppression and racism turning – will be the focus of the first session in the 2014-2015 Healing Racism Series.

The session, “Microaggressions: The Modern Face of Racism,” will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 10, at South Mountain Community Library, 7050 South 24th Street, in Phoenix. (Parking and directions.)

“Whether intentional or unintentional, and whether related to race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, religion or another facet of identity, microaggressions assault an individual’s psyche under the guise of seemingly innocuous comments and inquiries,” says Matthew Whitaker, director of ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and ASU Foundation Professor of history in the College of Letters and Sciences.

“They can be belittling, insulting and often send the message that some aspect of who you are, your station, or what you aspire to be does not conform to stereotypes or norms, or is wholly invalid.”

They are the modern face of racism in our so-called “post-racial” world.

The Healing Racism Series is at the heart of the Healing Racism Project, a collaboration of ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, the Maricopa Community Colleges and the City of Phoenix. The quarterly events bring together academic experts, community leaders and citizens to discuss topics related to racism, Arizona communities and American society, and to encourage dialogue that leads to positive change.

Organized in a workshop format focused on civil conversation, the Sept. 10 session will explore how microaggressions happen, and participants will gain solutions-based tools to manage micro-aggressors, recognize microaggressions in their own interactions, and stop the behavior.

“Tearing down racial barriers and stereotypes, and building a more informed, unified citizenry requires dialogue in settings where people feel comfortable enough to respectfully express their opinions and know they won’t be attacked by someone who disagrees with them,” Whitaker observes.

The workshop will be introduced by Whitaker and facilitated by Kami Hoskins, an attorney with the Phoenix firm of Jennings Strouss, and Rory Gilbert, senior human resources manager for Maricopa Community Colleges. Whitaker, Hoskins and Gilbert all serve as committee members for the Healing Racism Project.

Diversity Inc., a Paradise Valley Community College student organization focused on promoting inclusivity, will also take an active role in the workshop.

The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please register at

The three other sessions in the 2014-2015 Healing Racism Series are: “Reverse Racism?” (Oct. 8, Paradise Valley Community College), “Racism and Patriotism” (Feb. 11, Scottsdale Community College) and “Is This My Issue? Race and …” (May 2, ASU Downtown Phoenix campus).