Learning about Microaggressions: Intern Observation @ DC Youth Programs

By Liying Tan, AALEAD Curriculum Development Intern
Photos Courtesy of Liying Tan 

AALEAD’s DC Origins Summer Program ’18

On July 10th, I had the opportunity to visit the AALEAD’s DC Summer Programs at Alice Deal Middle School and witnessed an interesting workshop about how youth respond to workplace/higher education situations involving microaggressions. With the lead of Stephanie, the DC Middle & High School Coordinator, youth watched a TED video about Microaggression which explains three types of microaggression in more details, that is microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations.

Then Stephanie divided youth into five groups and let each group pick a scenario (i.e.: discrimination in the job interview/school) to act out. Afterward, the youth talked about how they usually respond to microaggression. Youth actively participated in the project and I really enjoyed their presentations!

Microaggressions are everywhere honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or not, no one should have to deal with a daily stream of slights. According to my research online, can you guess what would make 6 out of 10 employees leave their jobs? If you said a bad boss, you would only be partially right.

In a study of over 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics and Ultimate Software, respondents reported that a lack of emotional safety at work would make them quit a job immediately. Company culture often starts at the top and gets reinforced by managers, so it’s not hard to see how a “biased” culture could breed an environment of harassment, intimidation, and generally offensive behavior. This kind of discrimination, though quieter, harder to identify and to address, will have a huge negative impact on workers.

Therefore, I believe this topic is helpful to our youth to have a better awareness of their identity and be prepared to view this kind of unconscious bias with right and optimistic attitude.

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