Robert Benjamin and Brad Thorne led a seminar on unmasking microagressions, on March 1. The event explained microagression, the scientific impact of what people encounter when they are microaggressed, and the way toward change.

Microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile intent to a targeted group, usually and frequently minority groups.

Thorne began the seminar with defining the three different levels of awareness Freud coined: conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. Microagressions are a difficult issue to tackle because they lie in our unconsciousness awareness, and changing implicit biases is difficult; Brad explained that in order for us to do this we need to see our implicit bias, or a racism deeply ingrained in our psyche.

Robert Benjamin then took the floor and spoke on racism. There are two forms of racism spoken about: overt and aversive. Overt is most commonly associated with hate crimes, and aversive is commonly below the awareness of well-intentioned people. This is the category where many microaggressions fall.

“You cannot begin to talk about racism if you do not talk about race,” Benjamin said.

Robert explained that students on campus who receive microinsults most commonly cannot communicate exactly the discomfort they are having since the aggression is often light-handed or unintentional.

There are also microinsults that occur often unconsciously in actions or verbal remarks. These also convey rudeness and insensitivity, and demean a person’s racial heritage. The notion of color blindness, stating you do not see color in people, is a microinsult. The notion is ignoring the inherent individuality in culture between different races, and assuming that all people come from the same background and heritage.

As a community, the impact of microaggressions range from anger, low self-esteem, the creation of a hostile work environment, and even health problems.

Thorne remarked that the seminar attempted to “make the invisible visible” and to raise awareness in order to attempt to end or prevent microagressions on campus.