Jim Clark: Will this micro-aggression stand?
July 1, 2015
An IVGID staffer (an ex-Marine) recently asked me if I had heard the term "micro-aggression." Unfortunately I have.
And since he and I are both familiar with the term, perhaps it's time our Incline/Crystal Bay community gets exposed to this latest, most virulent form of political correctness.
What is it? "Micro-aggression" was first conjured up by Harvard Professor of Psychiatry Chester Pierce to describe: "insults and dismissals I regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans."
Subsequently, MIT economist Mary Rowe expanded the term to include "similar aggressions directed at women." Massaged by Ivy League professors and students the term grew to encompass any casual, sometimes unintentional, slighting of a socially marginalized group including the poor, disabled and sexual minorities.
An interesting example of micro-aggression occurred in 2008 when Senator Joe Biden (D – Del) described Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
The statement, intended to be a compliment, carried an implication that other African Americans don't share those characteristics. Similar gaffes were pulled at the time by Sen. Harry Reid (D – Nev) and Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D – Mass).
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The fact that these senators were not taken to task by the press for their racial insensitivity illustrates why Republicans despise all forms of political correctness. Democrats never pay the price. Republicans get crucified in the media.
Columbia University Psychology Professor Derald Sue has made a study of micro-aggressions. He defines them as: "brief everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership."
He says that women, including trans women, have reported experiencing gender-related micro-aggressions including catcalls, wolf-whistling, male gazes in an inappropriate context, condescension, being ignored or frequently interrupted, being called "sweetie," "honey" and the like.
OK, I guess I could see that. But look at how micro-aggression has metastasized and infected human behavior.
African American Economist Tom Sowell of Stanford's Hoover Institute writes "If you sit in a room where all the people are white you are considered to be guilty of micro-aggression against people who are not white, who will supposedly feel uncomfortable when they enter such a room."
Sowell, a conservative, is not a fan of micro-aggression, characterizing it as "micro-totalitarianism."
He points out that professors at the University of California at Berkeley have been warned of the dangers and snares of micro-aggression. They are forbidden to say things like: "America is the land of opportunity."
Why? Because it is deemed micro-aggressive towards minorities and women since it "supposedly shows that you don't take their grievances seriously." UC Berkeley … my alma mater!
Oh why couldn't I have gone to USC where the only important things are football and beer?
Steven Greenhut, a columnist for the San Diego Union, cites other examples deemed by the University of California to be micro-aggressive: "being forced to choose male or female when completing basic forms;" "two options for relationship status — married or single;" "mistaking a female doctor for a nurse."
Bezerkeley officials even teach faculty how to respond when witnessing micro-aggression. One option is to say: "I was so upset by that remark that I just shut down and couldn't hear anything else." Really? Are there any adults there? Is the free exchange of thoughts and ideas now criminalized?
Greenhut is concerned that all this shifts "power from the most academically proficient to the most easily offended. This agenda is clearly driven from the departments that specialize in identity politics.
"This is laughable stuff," he concludes, "but it has the potential to sow deep seeds of resentment, anger and division among the students who are subjected to it. We're toying with a macro amount of trouble here."
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.