by Holly Fetter, ’13
Stanford is a pretty liberal place. It’s a sunny university near San Francisco, so everyone assumes it’s a happy place to be different. And it is! There are incredible resources for students of every background, and diversity isn’t just another buzzword on campus – it’s an integral part of the school’s identity. Stanford (unlike some of its peer institutions) has always been co-ed, racially integrated, and was even tuition-free for the first 30 years of its existence. It is, and always has been, an inclusive place.
But such a comfortable environment can make instances of prejudice even more pernicious. They’re much harder to identify, and if they are identified, the victim is often met with raised eyebrows or counterarguments. Many of us with privilege only see the dangerous “-isms “ (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, etc.) manifested in blatant, infrequent, dramatic events, without noticing the subtle ways in which we all accidentally communicate prejudice, even if our intentions are good.
These less obvious occurrences are called “microaggressions.” All those syllables refer to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults toward a particular identity group.” Continue reading