Racism is an institutionalized systematic social and political construction that was meant to oppress, divide and conquer non-dominant cultures. One form of racial discrimination is called microaggression. An instance of microaggression that I observed three years ago, was that of a parent from my classroom; it was what Dr. Derald Wing Sue (Laureate Education, 2011) called a microassault. A microassault is when someone of a cultural group experiences an “overt, deliberate, hostile act of racism intended to hurt the person on a conscious level.” One of the parents from my classroom at the head start I work for came in to pick up her daughter. Usually, Maisa was a very cheerful person but when she came in to pick up her daughter that day she looked sad, upset, and on the verge of tears. When I asked her if she was alright, she immediately, started crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she responded that while riding on a Jitney bus, which is a private fleet of NJ buses, the bus driver demanded that she leave the bus because she was of the Muslim faith. The driver had discriminated against Maisa because she wore traditional Muslim hijab atop of her head. This happened on the day of the November 2015 Paris attacks. I reassured her that I would take her and her daughter home. I informed her that she had the right to report the driver to the owner of the bus company. I also asked her if she wanted to file any paperwork necessary with the town police. I remember just crying with her that day in my classroom. I knew the feeling of discrimination all too well, and although it was not the same situation, the feeling of hurt, inadequacy, frustration, shock, and rejection has denigrated me for being a woman of color and of Latino heritage. I reassured her that whatever that driver had said to her was not true and not her fault. I explained that he was to blame for his discriminatory and prejudice actions toward her.
“Isms” such as racism, classism, ageism, ableism, and religion-ism exist because the people in power or the dominant culture convey their negative ideas through media outlets, politicized agendas, and institutionalized systems. This messaging to people of the United States and around the world has perpetuated negative images and discourse of non-dominant cultures (Margles & Margles, 2010). It has also set the stage for the general population, including people of other non-dominant cultures to view each other and themselves as inadequate. They begin to believe that everything portrayed about them in society is true. Many go as far as to begin to “reject or attack” people of their own cultural group or change their physical appearance to match those of the dominant culture. Besides, Margles and Margles (2010) explain that sometimes these negative images internalized by cultural groups deter them for achieving success in their lives. Many times, members of a cultural group give up on school or professional aspirations believing the negative narrative that they may not be smart enough to follow their dreams. The manifestation of the negative messages from the dominant culture has led them to believe that will not succeed (Margles & Margles, 2010).
It is essential that we as early childhood professionals, leaders in our communities, and advocate of diverse families can first identify discrimination, bias, and microaggressions within ourselves and within society so that we may protect children and families from microaggressions and discrimination. As early childhood professionals and community members, we can start helping our children and families by changing the societal messages of prejudice they receive on any given day.
Laureate Education. (2011). Microaggressions in everyday life. Retrieved from Walden University: https://class.waldenu.edu
Margles, S., & Margles, R. M. (2010). Inverting racism’s distortions. Our schools/Our selves, 137-149.