Microaggressions and Emotions

I read the Turner paper that Ferzileta posted and then I read Racial Microaggressions and the Difficult Dialogues on Race in the Classroom from Bisola and I appreciated the opportunity to think about the two together.  While I found the Turner piece a helpful introduction to how emotions have been theorized, I was excited to see emotions come up in the Sue et al. paper. With only a brief explanation of the emotions generated during experiences of microaggressions, I think a deeper analysis of participant emotions could have been connected to power and race using a stratified theory of emotions. As part of this theory, “those who have had power, material resources, and prestige will experience positive emotions toward self and exhibit confidence” (Turner p.350), while those who lack power will experience more negative emotions towards self. It seems like the experiences of the participants in this study on microaggressions all seemed to experience a power imbalance especially in relation to the professor where there is expressed concern about grades. The work on microaggressions interests me, as I believe we are all mutually implicated in the cause and the effect of these experiences on one another, especially as educators. I find myself wondering about my own students, where they may have had these experiences, in my classroom and how these experiences must contribute to their relationship to school, learning, teachers, classrooms and their own identity and self-efficacy???

I see that a lot of my work has an emotional component and I continue to think about how emotions, my students and my own, play a part in the classroom and how I might theorize the expression of these emotions, what triggers them and how we (myself and my students) make meaning from them. I am also interested in reading more about theories related to difficult dialogues. I would most definitely categorize many of the discussions that occur in my class as difficult ones related to race, class, gender, stereotypes, oppression, and I believe a lot of my own guilt and emotions comes from not feeling like I have the knowledge or skills to address my student’s concerns (I know that it is not realistic to expect that I can address all of my student’s concerns but it is part of my innate feelings about myself as the/their teacher to want to fulfill that for them = a tension I often wrestle with). I appreciated in the reading the guidance for teachers to be honest and allow themselves the opportunity to say they do not know how to respond as well as acknowledging that I come with my own experiences that have created biases and stereotypes about others. In my class we often explore these life experiences and I share my own along with my students. There has been a lot of feedback from my class that it is exciting and liberating for them to be able to share stories about themselves, their cultures, and their experiences that have led them to see the world as they do.

Bisola, I have heard you speak about your research a few times now and correct me if I am wrong but I believe you are planning to do individual interviews with your participants, yes? I am wondering if you have thought about the focus group similar to the one used in this paper? I appreciated how the nature of focus groups in general allows for crosspollination of ideas and an added layer of group behaviors that can be analyzed. I am sure you have thought about this but just thought I would throw it out there.

3 thoughts on “Microaggressions and Emotions

  1. David Walters Jr.

    For some reason Im having trouble posting for Gadotti so I just put it here:

    Gadotti-Response to Education for Sustainable Development
    I like the idea of educating for sustainable development where educators can help bridge the gap between education, environment, culture and the political framework surrounding them. The Millennium goals and UNESCO have set forth many initiatives for implementing sustainability as a major objective for change. To do this quite an undertaking; educating our children world’s citizenry concerning the environment and how we can heal our planet is essential to our well-being. Ironically, the agents that are pushing for sustainability represent the nations that begun and continue to systematically destroy our world. Can the United Nations and World Bank initiatives be trusted to educate nations that they have robbed of economic vitality, self-respect, language, culture, clean and safe environment and happiness? The true knowledge of one’s existence begins in the present with an overview of the current state of affairs. The idea of sustainability sets goals for the future to avoid the mistakes of the past, but in learning about how to avoid the past, history clearly marks the purposed oppressive strategies used to control and exploit humanity. How do you educate the oppressed so that they can move forward and not hold on the past when the new world agency requires learning from the same destructive agents? The article states that ecopedagogy will bring the world together, which I believe it can, but only if the agents that are responsible for its destruction not just create initiatives to fix it, but also foot the bill. Historically, the World Bank encourages nations to borrow from the agents that have destroyed them and fall even further into financial and cultural slavery to them. With money come oppressive cultural and language policy. The article backs up this concern of mine through its expression of concern with the incompatibility of sustainability and capitalism and the struggle to align the two. Solidarity economy is more aligned, but capitalistic production principles stand in direct opposition.

  2. Ferzileta Gjika

    I would like to comment on the question posted from Bisola in this thread: “Does a lack of power then implicitly imply that one has a negative emotion towards themselves?”
    Negative emotions include anger, fear anxiety, frustration, despair, confusion, sadness. For Turner (2009), negative emotions shame, guilt, and alienation are mixes of the three negative primary emotions-anger, fear, and sadness-in somewhat different proportions(p.346). Turner explains why shame turns into anger, and the possibility that shame can cause sadness and depression. Negative emotions are caused from failing to meet expectations and the receipt of negative sanctions. The use and control of resources gives us power. The lack of resources creates less power and so the person may become frustrated, helpless, which brings forward negative emotions. People who are low in power have relatively little control over valued resources, as a result they are likely to experience negative emotions as threat or uncertainty. To avoid negative emotions, distribution of power may help in validating the situation and caring for each other. However Turner (2009) explains that conflict doesn’t come from the unequal resource distribution but from the repressed of negative emotions such as shame and humiliation(p.352).The question I have is: Do people with high power always display positive emotions? I think this is not always the case because power and responsibility comes with both sides of the mirror thus displaying positive and negative emotions.

  3. Bisola Neil

    I read the Turner article several times and I must have missed the notion of power within it. I understand the connection between the nation-state and how it has the potential to label a group “degenerate” “normal” or abnormal” but I am not to clear on the connection of it within race and power. However, I will like to address the ideas that Marissa bought up outside the use of the Turner article and stick to the major themes of race, power and emotions because I feel as though there is plenty of room for thought here.

    I believe that power dynamics and race relations have an obvious connection because it is how racism becomes institutionalized within society. It is through the use of power that one or a nation can marginalize another or group of people. Therefore, wherever there is a power dynamic, racism and/marginalization can occur. It is not through how the situation is perceived or how one feels about a situation that makes racism or marginalization insidious, it is the consequence of the act that makes it problematic. Racism prevents one or a group of people from self-actualizing by placing a predetermined restriction of how one can live their lives.

    I believe this is one of the reasons why microaggressions is such an important theory because although it focuses on how the recipient of a minute racial transgression feels, its purpose is to highlight the fact that any act of racism is an active form of racism that is essentially birthed out of power dynamic and therefore has the same effect, if not worst, than a more traditional or outward act of racism .

    To connect this point with emotions, I appreciated Marissa pointing out that the Turner article discusses negative emotions associated with a lack of power and my question to this is: does a lack of power then implicitly imply that one has a negative emotion towards themselves? I tend not to agree with this point, leaning on the work of theorists, such as bell hooks who has discussed at length the power found in the margins. Therefore, my question is, does a lack of power equate negative self emotions or does the imposition of one’s power upon the powerless create the negative emotion and then dictate how are these emotions are then acted out? I believe these are all important conversations to have and difficult ones as well because they are so deeply embedded in values and consequently emotions. When Marissa discussed honestly how senstitive conversations centered on differences can be difficult, I immediately agreed and then thought about what makes these conversations difficult. I believe, what makes these conversations difficult are that they expose us and in order for them to “work” all engage in the conversation must be willing to be vulnerable. Therefore, I believe the only remedy for a difficult conversation is to transmute it into an authentic one where all sides are heard, valued and validated because the problem with racism and microaggressions is the silence around it.

    This brings me to the other point Marissa bought up, if these conversatins are to happen what is the best forum, one on one or in a focus group setting? I have thought about focus groups but definitely not as a first layer of research because I feel as though microagrressions are so microscopic and often left for interpretation, individual patterns must be found before groupthink sets in but I do feel there is something very freeing about sharing common experiences so a focus group is a great idea. This is my current thinking around it but I am honestly struggling with the methods aspect of the study so any ideas are appreciated. I just also think that part of the theory of microaggressions in the aspect of invalidation and there is something very powerful about having your individual story told but I am still thinking especially about this notion of the :”stratified theory of emotions”

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